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504 Plans: What You Need to Know

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — April 16, 2019 — 3 min read
A 504 Plan is intended to help keep a child in a traditional classroom setting with modifications (or interventions) needed to ensure the child’s needs are met. A 504 Plan can help students with physical as well as behavioral health issues that affect their ability to learn. 

As the mom of a child with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a former special education teacher, I’ve been on both sides of planning for a child who needs help excelling in school. My child is now in high school and has had a 504 Plan since elementary school. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about what to ask for to help her.

First, some background: The 504 Plan is covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance. A 504 Plan is monitored through the classroom teacher where as an IEP is monitored by an IEP instructor and can require special classroom setting. This differs from the Individualized Education Program (IEP) that falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT

Learning what you are able to ask for in a 504 Plan can be tricky at times as every child is different and their level of need is different and changes with time. When an intervention is not working and you continue to see a child’s grade decrease, you have the right to request interventions to be changed and as your child gets older he/she might not need the same interventions. 

The child’s parent or legal guardian, teachers, and school administrators meet to discuss each child’s needs and a plan is personalized to help that student achieve his or her educational goals.

Some examples of modifications, accommodations, or interventions that can be included in a 504 Plan are:
  • Specific seating
  • Reduced homework
  • Reduced questions on exams
  • Extended time to take exams
  • Read aloud for certain subjects
  • Visual and verbal aids
  • Technology aids
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Visits to the school nurse
  • Unexcused or tardy due to a physical illness (such as Type 1 diabetes)
  • Behavior management components (such as a stress ball or similar items)
A 504 Plan is developed with the child’s teachers and other school officials, which may include the principal, guidance counselor, and 504 Plan administrator. Although 504 Plans require legal guardian participation, they do not necessarily require approval from a legal guardian, unlike an IEP. 

Each year the plan is reviewed with the child’s legal guardian. However, a review of the plan or modifications to the plan can be done at any point in time to ensure the child is getting what he or she needs.

If you think your child needs a 504 Plan, you can start with calling your school. Pediatricians or child psychiatrists that see your child can also help you get the process started.

My child has a 504 Plan to help with extra time on tests, get a study guide several days before an exam, and the ability to retest if needed. Her interventions when she was in younger grades included being permitted to read aloud, the ability to use headsets for certain subjects, and reduced questions on homework. My daughter is doing well in school now and will graduate soon.

Working with the school to get the 504 Plan in place may seem difficult, but in my experience, it pays off in the long-run.

About the author
Tracy Martins, LPC, NCC, LCAS-A, is a mother of four children.
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