How to Get a 504 Plan for Your Child

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Many parents have heard of 504 plans but might not know how to obtain one for their child. These plans identify accommodations a child with a disability needs to fully participate in the classroom. Get the facts on 504 plans, how to apply for one, and how it can help a child with special needs succeed in school.

What Is a 504 Plan?

Perhaps your child has a learning challenge such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depending on the level of their symptoms, they don't qualified for an individualized education plan (IEP). A 504 plan might be appropriate in this case.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bans discrimination against students with disabilities, includes 504 plans to offer accommodations that remove barriers from learning to help students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, or other disorders achieve academic success.

The 504 plan details how accommodations in the school or classroom may remove these obstacles so that children with special needs can spend the entire day in a regular classroom rather than in special education classes. The definition of students considered disabled by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is broader than for students eligible for IEPs, which is determined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and encompasses all disabilities. While Section 504 does not list which disabilities are included specifically, it is typically reserved for those with long-term disabilities—though some short-term disabilities may qualify so as long as they remain eligible.

The Protocol for Obtaining a 504 Plan

Similar to getting an IEP, parents can request that the school evaluate their child if personnel from the school haven't already suggested such an evaluation. The school can consider diagnoses from doctors, test results, and comments from teachers, parents, and others to determine if the child has a disability that necessitates a 504 plan. Parents should prepare for meetings regarding the plan and need to know how to report problems with the plan.

Before parents can obtain a 504 plan to accommodate their child, they must first get a team to assess their child, acknowledge which federal laws apply to their child's disability, and establish a plan based on those findings. The plan should be tailored to your child's needs and have provisions to measure your child's progress in the classroom each school year. There should be documentation of your child's progress as well.

The Information Included in the Plan

In addition to the information listed above, the 504 plan should also include the services or accommodations the child will receive. For example, the 504 plan of a child with ADHD might specify that the student is seated away from doors, windows, or other sources of potential distractions. The plan may typically includes the person responsible for overseeing and executing the plan, any additional guidance the student may need such as therapy or counseling.

While 504 plans share some similarities with IEPs, the main difference is that they are about making accommodations so that students with disabilities can participate in a regular classroom. Unlike IEPs, 504s do not list the yearly goals the child should meet, even if they do contain provisions for monitoring student progress.

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  1. U.S. Department of Education. Know Your Rights: Students with ADHD.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Disability Discrimination: Overview of the Laws.

  3. U.S. Department of Education. A Guide to the Individualized Education Program.

  4. U.S. Department of Education. Protecting Students With Disabilities. Updated January 10, 2020.