We all want the best for our children and for them to get the best education possible. Some students need a tailored educational plan to make the most of their time in school. A 504 plan may be the best way for parents and guardians to support their child’s academic career and maximize their success.
A 504 plan is an educational plan offered to students who are attending elementary or secondary schools but do not fit the criteria for an individualized educational plan (IEP) or special education. Under a 504 plan, your student will receive accommodations that help them absorb the material in a way that lets them fully understand it.
IEP vs 504 Plan: What’s the Difference?
At first glance, IEPs and 504 plans seem like they are the same thing. However, there are some subtle but key differences between these educational plans.
An IEP is more formal, providing specialized instruction that requires a more thorough investigation into the student’s needs. It may involve giving a child small-group instruction, services such as speech therapy, or a detailed outline of educational goals. Schools that have students on IEPs must annually report and show the student’s measurable progress.
504 plans tend to be somewhat broader, offering certain supports to students with any disability that may interfere with their learning. The school tailors the plan to the student, to address specific concerns while giving them equal access to learning. A student with a 504 plan may not qualify for an IEP or special education. They should review their plan every year to ensure they are still receiving the best accommodations to meet their educational needs.
What Kinds of Accommodations Can My Child Receive from a 504 Plan?
Customized to the student, 504 plans can contain almost any accommodation that will make it easier for your child to learn. Many 504 plans include such strategies as the following:
- Seat placement in the classroom (e.g., at the front of the classroom)
- Extra time on tests
- Use of technology that makes it easier for students to study or learn
- Moving to a quiet place to take a test or quiz
- Changes to the test curriculum presented to the child
- Oral instead of written tests
- Adjusted class schedules
There are many other types of accommodations that may be available to your child to meet their educational needs. For example, perhaps a child who has dyslexia would benefit from an audio version of their textbook. A student with severe asthma may take part in an alternate activity during physical education class. Meanwhile, someone with ADHD might need more frequent physical activity during the school day.
You can work with your child’s school to learn more about your options for a 504 plan.
How Can My Child Get a 504 Plan?
If your student is showing some signs that are of concern, it may be time to develop a 504 plan. Some red flags or areas of concern to look for can include:
- Your child is having trouble focusing on tasks or finishing their homework.
- Your child is struggling with hyperactivity or irritability, or lacks social skills.
- The student has impulsivity issues.
- The student has trouble starting tasks or keeping the steps of a task organized.
These are only a few examples of the areas of concern for parents. Schools may suggest a 504 plan if your child exhibits these signs and meets the qualifications for a specialized educational plan. Qualifications vary based on school district. General examples of qualifications to receive a 504 plan can include:
- Grades and test scores. (Note, however, that even students with passing grades may qualify for a 504 plan.)
- Medical diagnosis of a disability (Students with a diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, or certain allergies may be among those who receive a 504 plan, for example.)
- Recommendations from teachers
It is wise to speak with your child’s teachers and school administrators to ensure that your child is receiving the most out of their time in school. Schedule a meeting with your child’s school to learn more about the availability of 504 plans for your child and to develop a strategy for student success.
If you have a child with a disability who attends school, you may consider working with a special education advocate as well. For further guidance on planning your child’s future and understanding their rights, contact an experienced special needs planning attorney.