For a child who is having trouble in school, a 504 plan can offer a lot of support. The plan can put in place changes to how your child is taught, like frequent breaks or audiobooks. 504 plans are great for kids who don’t need but who do need support to learn.
How do you get your child a 504 plan? Many kids get a 504 plan after they are found not eligible for an IEP. When this happens, the school usually proposes the plan. Other times, though, families ask the school for a 504 plan. If that’s you, here are seven steps to get your child a 504 plan.
1. Document your child’s needs.
Your child must have a legal to get a 504 plan. (Kids who learn or think differently generally do.) Start by gathering any documents about your child’s needs, like any records of a medical diagnosis. Other things to gather are schoolwork, report cards, and private evaluations. It can be helpful to organize these papers in a binder.
2. Find out who the school’s 504 coordinator is.
This person may also be the IEP coordinator. Check the school website for the coordinator’s name and contact information. If you can’t find it, ask the principal.
3. Write a formal request for a 504 plan.
It’s a good idea to make a formal written request for a 504 plan. In your request, be specific about why you’re asking for the plan. For example, you might say: “I would like a 504 plan for my child who, due to , needs frequent breaks throughout the day to be able to learn like his peers.”
Use this letter template to request a 504 plan. Copy and paste the text. Then customize with details about your child. (This letter was adapted from The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education [Adams Media, 2014]).
4. Follow up on your request.
The 504 coordinator should respond right away. However, you can keep things on track by following up by email or phone after a few days.
5. Go through the 504 plan evaluation process.
An evaluation for a 504 plan isn’t always as comprehensive as one for an IEP. But the school will still want to review your child’s schoolwork, medical records, and other documents. The school will also want to talk with and observe your child, as well as interview you, your child’s teacher, and other school staff.
6. Meet with the school to see if your child qualifies.
After the evaluation, the school will most likely meet with you to decide if your child qualifies. You can also ask for this meeting if the school doesn’t schedule it. If your child qualifies, you’ll move to the next step. If not, it may be time to look at your options for 504 plan dispute resolution.
7. Work together to create the 504 plan.
Once your child qualifies for a 504 plan, the school will work with you to create the plan. A written 504 plan isn’t required. But most schools will create one. Download a sample 504 plan to see what it might look like. And get tips for developing a good 504 plan.
Keep in mind that another way to get a 504 plan is through the standard IEP process. If you aren’t sure whether your child needs an IEP or a 504 plan, it may be best to request an evaluation for an IEP.
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About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Melody Musgrove, EdD served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education.