Can a Educational Section 504 Plan Help My Child at School?

Educational Section 504 Plan
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Educational Section 504 Plan

I have recently gotten more questions from those who have read my articles on ADHD about the Educational Section 504 Plan and if it can help your child at school.  I hope the questions and answers below are helpful as you decide if this may be appropriate for your child’s needs.  

What is an Educational Section 504 Plan?  

If your child has a medical condition, there is a law for schools that receive federal financial assistance called section 504.  It grants students with a medical condition certain rights.  It’s a plan that allows students with a medical condition accommodations in the classroom to ensure their needs are met as adequately as their peers.   

An Educational 504 plan is not the same as an individualized education plan (IEP).  Sometimes the two plans are confused.  Kids with an IEP typically receive services through special education programs whereas kids with a 504 plan may or may not.  

The ultimate goal of a 504 plan is equal educational opportunities among students with and without disabilities.  

 

What is the 504 plan eligibility process?

The 504 plan eligibility process varies from state to state but it usually involves paperwork from your child’s doctor and a team meeting with the school administration and other staff.  Any school official who oversees this program could provide you with the steps and information to determine eligibility for a 504 plan.  

These plans can be temporary.  For example, a child with a broken arm or leg may need accommodations while they manage school in a cast for a few weeks.   

A 504 plan has to be honored in public and private schools that accept federal funding.  Most public schools accept federal funding and some private schools do as well.  

In the illustration below, the experience of viewing the game is provided to all three kids but a simple addition of an extra box provides the third child with the same successful outcome.  You can think of a 504 plan as the federal law that ensures students have the “extra box” when needed to have the same experience as their peers in the classroom.  

504 plan image

A student who has diabetes may need frequent breaks.  Another student with ADHD may need additional time for tests and preferred seating away from distractions.  An extra set of books at home may be an option for a student with a broken arm or leg.  

Sometimes simple adjustments or accommodations are made in the classroom without a 504 plan.  However, anything that changes standardized or end of course testing for students has to be documented.   

What accommodations are available? 

Below is a list of accommodations/modifications that are typically available through a 504 plan. You would need to consult with your school officials as these may vary from state to state.    

Classroom Assignments/Homework:

  • Reduce length of assignments and/or homework to show content mastery
  • Provide a copy of lecture notes
  • Checklists or special reminder system between home and school
  • Provide an additional set of books at home
  • Allow student to use electronic communication to submit homework

Testing:

  • Provide classroom/testing accommodations such as additional time, small group, repeated directions, and/or frequent breaks
  • Allow various test response formats (may answer orally or write in test booklets)
  • Allow open book tests
  • Read test questions aloud

Instructional Methods:

  • Allow and model the use of organizing tools and study guides
  • Record lessons
  • Utilize visual aids
  • Allow computer/word processor
  • Provide study skills training

Behavior Related:

  • Implement behavior plans
  • Use consequences other than taking away physical activity
  • Provide social skills group
  • Use nonverbal cues to remain on task
  • Send home daily/weekly progress reports

(Access sample behavior plans in the Resource Library.) 

Classroom Setting: 

  • Adjust seating or environment to avoid distractions
  • Use of a timer to promote assignment completion within a time frame
  • Provide opportunities for frequent movement while working
  • Schedule changes (such as more rigorous content earlier in the day)
  • Provide study skills training
  • Send home daily/weekly progress reports

Other resources:  

Understood- Understanding 504 Plans

U.S. Department of Education- FAQ About Section 504

ADDitude Mag- 

Common Problems & Helpful Solutions for Your IEP/504 Plan

The best starting place for more information about your child’s educational plan and needs is the school officials.  They can tell you how this process works for your child’s particular state and together you can determine next steps.  The ultimate goal is a successful outcome for your child’s needs and educational path.    


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