Not long ago I addressed Things to Know Before an IEP Meeting. After writing that piece, I heard from a lot of parents about another form of support that schools can offer called a 504 Plan. Throughout the school year many parents find themselves in a position to ask for more assistance for their child. Schools are required to comply with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prevents any discrimination on the part of a school district to a student with disabilities. Since not all students have a learning disability that requires them to receive direct services from the Special Education departments in districts and schools, the option of a 504 Plan might be just what they need. What is it exactly?
The Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that schools respond to a parent request if they feel their child is being excluded, based on whatever disability they have, in the classroom. There are benefits to acquiring a 504 Plan and all students between the ages of 3 and 22 are required to be covered.
According to federal law, this includes any student defined as the following: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].
What does this mean for the child being excluded then and who is this a good option for if they need it? In my experience, this means any student in a K-12 school district who has an identified learning disability or ADHD but doesn’t meet requirements of IDEA for services through the special education department. What this means is that many students may have a diagnosis of ADHD but they don’t also have a learning disability impairing their learning. Most students who fall into this category struggle in school with things like organization because of any of the 13 categories described in IDEA.
Autism, deafness or blindness, developmental delays, emotional disturbances, intellectual disabilities, orthopedic impairments, and OHI are the most common categories for which students receive a 504 Plan. OHI is our shorthand for Other Health Impairment and can be due to things such as asthma, ADHD, diabetes, or even heart conditions. Any one of these must be shown to adversely affect the educational performance of a child in school.
When students have conditions that are adversely affecting their performance we find that traditional methods of instruction aren’t always working for them even though they can advance from one grade to another.
If you feel like your child requires a 504 Plan then you must first request one from your school. Some schools use their Special Education personnel to handle this, but most often you’ll find teams of teachers and administrators working together on a plan to ensure academic success. School teams who work on these are required to review the 504 Plan yearly to make sure that it’s working and parents are required at these meetings.
While this is a basic primer on the 504 Plan, most parents are unaware of such services and schools can accommodate for classroom difficulties without one. If you find yourself in a position where classroom teachers or schools aren’t meeting the needs of your child, request a meeting for a 504 Plan first. It’s possible that other special education testing will be needed, but this is the best place to start.
Resources: Department of Health and Human Services