If your child has a disability, you should know how to get her extra support in school. One option is a 504 plan. It assures your child gets special services or accommodations needed to keep up in classes.
Getting a 504 plan is a good idea even if your child is already receiving extra help at school. It gives you added assurance she will continue to get the help for as long as she needs it.
What Is a 504 Plan?
These plans are part of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That law requires school districts to give free and appropriate education to students with disabilities who go to public schools.
504 plans give kids with physical or mental disabilities help they need to stay and learn in a regular classroom setting. The law defines "disability" very broadly. Instead of listing specific conditions or disabilities, it describes them as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity."
The definition may include a condition that affects your child's ability to:
A wide range of disabilities and conditions fit this definition. Some examples are:
- Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
- Tourette's syndrome
Sometimes a 504 plan is temporary. For example, if your child returns to school after a broken leg, one of these plans can help make sure she gets extra help until the leg heals.
What Accommodations Does a 504 Plan Include?
The plans are tailored for each child's needs. They don't change what's being taught in class. But your child may:
- Get extra time on tests and schoolwork
- Have the option to listen to audiobooks instead of reading
- Give verbal answers to a test instead of written ones
- Take tests in a different room with less distractions or in a smaller group of students
- Get speech therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling
How Can I Get a Plan for My Child?
The law doesn't outline a standard way to get a 504 plan. It's up to each school. If you think a plan would help your child, contact your child's school district and find out what's involved.
Typically, a team that includes the principal, teachers, school nurse, guidance counselor, and social worker discuss each case.
The team may review:
- A doctor's diagnosis of your child's disability
- Your child's academic record
- Observations from you and your child's teachers
By law, parents aren't required to be part of these meetings. But you can ask to be there.
What Should I Ask for?
Make sure you get:
- A list of the specific accommodations or services your child will receive
- The names of the teachers or other professionals who will provide each service
- The name of the person who makes sure the plan is being put into action
If you feel changes are needed to your child's plan, contact the head of the school's 504 planning team. The team will need to agree to the changes before they can be part of your child's plan.