If your child has learning and attention issues and is struggling in school, you may be curious about 504 plans. If your child doesnâ€™t qualify for an Individualized Education Program
(IEP), a 504 plan may be a good alternative. If your child has BPD or traits of the disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety or other emotional challenges that make school difficult, and is not eligible for an IEP, he or she may be eligible for a 504.
A 504 plan can give you peace of mind. This is especially true if your child already gets informal accommodations at school and you want to make sure they continue. But first, you need to know what a 504 plan can provide, what your rights are, how to pursue a 504 plan and what makes a child eligible. The more you know, the better you can advocate for your child. What is a 504 plan?
This type of plan falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the part of the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities. That includes students with learning and attention issues who meet certain criteria.
Much like an IEP, a 504 plan can help students with learning and attention issues learn and participate in the general education curriculum. A 504 plan outlines how a childâ€™s specific needs are met with accommodations, modifications and other services. These measures â€śremove barriersâ€ť to learning.
Keep in mind that a student with a 504 plan usually spends the entire school day in a general education classroom. And typically, children who need modifications would have an IEP, not a 504 plan. Who qualifies for a 504 plan?
504 plans are for Kâ€“12 public school students with disabilities. Section 504 defines â€śdisabilityâ€ť in very broad terms. Thatâ€™s why children who arenâ€™t eligible for an IEP may qualify for a 504 plan. Section 504 defines a person with a disability as someone who:
â€˘Has a physical or mental impairment that â€śsubstantiallyâ€ť limits one or more major life activity (such as reading or concentrating).
â€˘Has a record of the impairment.
â€˘Is regarded as having an impairment, or a significant difficulty that isnâ€™t temporary. For example, a broken leg isnâ€™t an impairment, but a chronic condition, like a food allergy, might be.
This definition covers a wide range of issues, including ADHD and learning disabilities. However, Section 504 doesnâ€™t specifically list disabilities by name.
Having a disability doesnâ€™t automatically make a student eligible for a 504 plan. First the school has to do an evaluation to decide if a childâ€™s disability â€śsubstantiallyâ€ť limits his ability to learn and participate in the general education classroom.
This evaluation can be initiated by either the parent or the school. If the school initiates the evaluation, it must notify the parents and get the parentsâ€™ consent to evaluate a child for a 504 plan. If the school wants to move ahead without the parentsâ€™ consent, it must request a due process hearing to get permission to work around the parentsâ€™ refusal.
When doing an evaluation for a 504 plan, the school considers information from several sources, including:
â€˘Documentation of the childâ€™s disability (such as a doctorâ€™s diagnosis)
â€˘Evaluation results (if the school recently evaluated the child for an IEP)
â€˘Observations by the studentâ€™s parents and teachers
â€˘Independent evaluations (if available)
Section 504 requires evaluation procedures that prevent students from being misclassified, incorrectly labeled as having a disability or incorrectly placed.What does a 504 plan contain?
Thereâ€™s no standard 504 plan required by the law. Every school district handles it a little differently. In general, a 504 plan should include the following elements, all tailored to a childâ€™s individual needs:
â€˘Specific accommodations, supports or services
â€˘Names of the school professional that will provide each service
â€˘The name of the person responsible for ensuring the 504 plan is implemented
A 504 plan can include specialized instruction in a general education classroom. It can also provide related services. These could include speech or occupational therapy or even counseling.
If youâ€™re already familiar with what an IEP includes, youâ€™ll notice that a 504 plan is less detailed. For example, a 504 plan doesnâ€™t include annual goals. Learn more about the difference between 504 plans and IEPs. Who develops a 504 plan?
A 504 plan is developed by a team of people who are familiar with the student and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This group, sometimes called the 504 committee, might include:
â€˘Your childâ€™s general education teacher(s)
â€˘A special education teacher
â€˘The school principal
â€˘You, the parent(s)
â€˘The child (depending on his age and maturity)
You can ask to be involved in all discussions and meetings about your childâ€™s plan. But itâ€™s important to know that the law doesnâ€™t require or guarantee parent participation in these meetings.
After you receive a copy of your childâ€™s 504 plan, keep an eye on how itâ€™s being implemented. This is especially important, because the school isnâ€™t required to give you regular updates on your childâ€™s progress. Donâ€™t wait until next yearâ€™s 504 plan meeting to raise your concerns! This and other tips can help you make sure your childâ€™s 504 plan is being followed. What happens at a 504 plan meeting?
Your childâ€™s 504 plan must be reviewed by the 504 committee every year. Legally, parents are not guaranteed a seat at the table, but they are encouraged to attend. Here are some of the key things the committee may discuss in the annual 504 meeting:
â€˘Your childâ€™s strengths. This is a time for you and the team to share success your child has had in and out of school. For example, if your child struggles to pay attention and follow directions, the group might compare notes on his progress in those areas. Be sure to tell them about his wins at home and in extracurricular activities.
â€˘Your concerns and suggestions for improving your childâ€™s education. The meeting is a good time to share where you still see your child struggling. Is his backpack always disorganized? Does he forget to bring his homework assignments home? Let the committee know what you think might make these tasks easier for him, based on your experience.
â€˘Whether or not accommodations (such as assistive technology) and modifications are helping. If they arenâ€™t helping your child as expected, the group needs to discuss upgrading, discontinuing or replacing them. The team should also consider any new instruction and technology tools that might be more helpful for your child.
Based on whatâ€™s covered in the meeting, the committee may propose changes to your childâ€™s 504 plan. Your permission is only required if the committee recommends a major change in placement, such as discontinuing educational services that are in his current plan.What happens if you donâ€™t agree with a 504 plan?
If you disagree with the schoolâ€™s decisions about your childâ€™s education, there are several ways to dispute it. Here are the steps you can take (usually in this order):
â€˘Request a mediator to help you and the school reach an agreement.
â€˘Ask for a hearing before an impartial hearing officer.
â€˘File a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights.
â€˘File a lawsuit. What can make the journey easier?
Whether youâ€™re just learning about 504 plans or your child already has one in place, there are many ways to make the journey easier.
â€˘Know your childâ€™s issues. Observing your child can help you better understand his strengths, weaknesses and needs.
â€˘Explore supports. Find out about accommodations that can help students with learning and attention issues.
â€˘Partner with teachers. Communicating with your childâ€™s teachers is a good way to advocate for your child and find out whatâ€™s working in the classroomâ€”and whatâ€™s not.
â€˘Get advice from experts. Parenting Coach offers tips that may address aspects of your childâ€™s 504 plan. Live chats are an opportunity to ask questions directly to experts.
â€˘Connect with other parents. Parents like you can be a source of support, understanding and helpful advice.https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/understanding-504-plans
The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued additional guidance concerning the effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 on public elementary and secondary program. In most cases, application of these rules should quickly shift the inquiry away from the question whether a student has a disability, and toward the school district's actions and obligations to ensure equal educational opportunities. U.S. DOE OCR Guidance Letter advising school districts of the expanded definition of and services for students with disabilities. The new guidance requires students who traditionally may not have been identified under Section 504 and Title II under ADA to be reevaluated and tested under a broadened definition. - See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.index.htm#sthash.y9yUVTMr.dpuf