Children who have certain learning or
attention issues, but don’t need special education, might qualify for a 504 plan.
These plans are designed for students with disabilities who need supports in
order to learn alongside their peers. 504 plans aren’t part of special education
like IEPs are. They’re covered by the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil
rights law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. The
purpose of 504 plans is to remove barriers to learning, just like a ramp
into the school building removes a barrier for students in wheelchairs. The
plans make changes to the environment, not to the instruction. Students often
get a 504 plan after being denied eligibility for special education.
Parents can also request a 504 plan for their child. 504s have a much broader
definition of disability than IEPs. So a student might have an evaluation because
of trouble completing tests and writing assignments. The results might reveal a
slow processing speed, but no other issues. Still, there’s an issue getting in
the way of the student’s performance in school. In this case the student doesn’t
need special instruction, but does need support. So the school might recommend
extended time or note-taking services. Another student might get preferred
seating, or an extra set of texts through a 504 plan. There’s no standardized
template or form for 504 plans, but the plans should include specific
accommodations, supports and services. It also should have the name of the people
providing the services, plus the name of the person who’s responsible for making
sure the plan is followed. 504s have far fewer requirements than IEPs, and the
rules about who’s on the 504 team at school are much less specific than with
IEP teams. The team might include a child’s regular education teacher, a
special education teacher, or a school social worker who’s familiar with the
child. Parents are also typically on the team, although the school isn’t required
to involve them. Another role for parents is monitoring the 504 plan to make sure
all the supports are being followed, and their child is getting the needed help.
504 plans offer less of a safety net than IEPs, but that can encourage kids
to become self-advocates. The more they can speak up for
themselves as they make their way through school, college, work and into the
adult world, the more help they can get for themselves when they need it.