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What is a 504 Plan?

All schools that receive federal funding must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act off 1973. If your child’s disability doesn’t qualify for an Individualized Education Plan or IEP, you can request that they be evaluated for a 504 Plan. You should ask for a 504 plan in writing explaining the accommodations that you are asking for. To be eligible for a 504 plan, your child must have a disability that is considered a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” or have a record of such impairment, or be regarding as having such an impairment. If your child’s disability impacts learning in an education setting, they should qualify for accommodations or services with a 504 Plan.

What if I wanted an IEP?

If you wanted an IEP and you are told that your child only qualifies for a 504, ask for copies of every assessment, testing, and any other documentation that was used to determine their ineligibility. You have due process rights to appeal the school’s decision. If you choose to not appeal or you appeal and are told that your child is indeed only eligible for a 504 plan, it’s important to know exactly what a 504 plan is.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 Plan is a formal written plan that you will develop with the school to determine what supports they need to succeed. They are typically determined and written by a 504 plan coordinator. 504 plans don’t provide individualized instruction outside of the general classroom like IEPs do, but they are designed to give children with disabilities services and accommodations to access the same education as their classmates. 504 plans are monitored by your child’s teachers.

How is a 504 Plan Developed?

The school will conduct an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for a 504 plan. You are required to consent before the school conducts an initial evaluation. It's important to provide the school with any medical and prior school records that show the need for accommodations. Each school district establishes their own standards and procedures for evaluations. The school is not obligated to include the parent in the process. That’s why it is SO important to advocate for your child as you are your child’s biggest advocate. You know best what accommodations and services they need to excel in school. It’s important to work with the school to develop a 504 plan that addresses your child’s needs based on their disability. You can also provide outside documentation such as an outside testing as well as input from your child’s providers including their physician, therapist, counselor, or any other person that they regularly come in contact with.

What are some Medical Conditions that Qualify my Child for a 504 Plan?

Students with physical or mental disabilities are eligible for 504 plans. Students must have a disability or impairment that affect the student's ability to perform major life activities, such as walking, talking, and breathing. A 504 plan should provide accommodations in all aspects of the student including medical needs and limitations. In some cases, it will allow students to take medication or carry insulin for monitoring their blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association provides an example of a sample 504 plan.

What are some Examples of Accommodations under a 504 Plan?

My oldest son’s 504 plan allows him time and a half to take tests and it explains to his teachers that he should not sit near the window or an air conditioner or anywhere in the classroom that has loud noises that will easily distract him. Other examples of accommodations include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Ability to leave the classroom to take tests
  • Additional time to take tests
  • Wearing noise cancelling headphones during tests and instruction
  • Preferential or assigned seating
  • Verbal, visual, or technology aids
  • Modified textbooks or audio-visual materials
  • Educational aides such as larger print tests
  • Behavioral management support
  • Adjusted class schedules
  • Verbal testing
  • Occupational or physical therapy
  • Allowing excused absences for medical appointments and sick days without penalty
  • Extra time to complete assigned work
  • Reduce amount of homework
  • Digital textbooks
  • Alternate physical education activities for a student with asthma who cannot run
  • Moving a class in an inaccessible classroom to one that a student who uses a wheelchair can use
  • Checking blood glucose and administer insulin for a student with diabetes
  • Allowing students to whenever and wherever necessary, including eating lunch at an appropriate time with enough time to finish eating
  • Allowing students to take extra trips to the bathroom or water fountain

How Long is a 504 plan Valid?

The school will conduct periodic reevaluations to determine continued eligibility. 504 plans can be terminated when they are no longer needed. If your child no longer needs accommodations or services to meet the identified needs, they will no longer need a 504 plan. Students that remain eligible will stay eligible for their 504 plan. Eligible students can continue to benefit with a 504 plan if they are preparing for postsecondary education. After graduation, students that continue at the postsecondary level are responsible for requesting academic accommodations. College students should notify their prospective college after admission to the appropriate 504 coordinator, academic department dean, faculty advisor, or to each professor. 

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