My child’s 504 plan doesn’t seem to be working. Now what?

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

Are you concerned that your child’s 504 plan isn’t working? Sometimes 504 plans need to be adjusted to better meet kids’ needs. Here are steps you can take if you think your child’s 504 plan isn’t working and needs changes.

1. Define what “not working” means to you.

The first step is to identify why you think the 504 plan isn’t working. Maybe you expected your child to improve in certain areas or have higher grades because of the 504 plan. Maybe you’re concerned that there’s a snag or mix-up with the services and supports in the plan. You might think your child needs different accommodations or more help than the school currently provides.

2. Consider how long the 504 plan has been in place.

Think about how long your child has had a 504 plan. If it was just put in place, it may take time to see the benefits. In the meantime, you can observe your child and note any concerns. On the other hand, if your child’s 504 plan hasn’t been updated recently, it may be time to do that. Experts suggest that 504 plans be reviewed at least once a year.

3. Confirm that the 504 plan is being followed.

It’s important to make sure your child’s 504 plan is being followed. Look at school assignments for signs that your child is using the accommodations in the 504 plan. Ask your child about how the accommodations are working in each class. If you’re concerned about a specific accommodation, you can email the teacher to ask about it.

4. Track your child’s progress.

Next, it may help to look at your child’s progress in school. There’s no requirement for a 504 plan to track progress. However, most schools monitor how kids are doing academically through report cards, test scores, and other assessments. You have a right to see these records. Find out how to request them. It may also help to keep track of any communications you have with the school about progress.

Under federal education law, schools must aim to get all kids to meet state grade-level standards. That includes kids who learn and think differently. Check report cards and other school records to see if your child is meeting these standards.

5. Talk with your child’s teacher or 504 plan coordinator.

Schedule a time to talk about your concerns with the teacher. You can also reach out to the school’s 504 plan coordinator, whose contact information should be on your child’s plan or in the school directory. (Download this contact list form to keep all this contact information in one place. You can also keep track of contact information and other details about your child’s plan in this sample 504 plan.)

Both the teacher and the coordinator may have information that answers your concerns. They may also suggest ways you can support the 504 plan at home. And your input can help them evaluate whether the plan is working or if it needs to be changed.

6. Ask for a meeting with the school principal or the 504 plan team.

If you still have concerns, you can take them to a higher level — the school principal or the 504 plan team. Unlike with an IEP, you don’t have a legal right to call (or even attend) 504 plan meetings. But you can always ask to talk, and often the school will agree.

Bring any notes or samples of your child’s schoolwork that support your concerns. Make a list of questions you want to ask. Check out more suggestions for how to make the most of 504 plan meetings.

7. Talk about adjusting the accommodations.

As you work with the school, review and talk about how well your child’s accommodations and services are working. Sometimes the accommodations in the plan don’t work as well as everyone thought they would. Perhaps an accommodation is too hard for your child to use. Or maybe your child feels embarrassed about using it. Also, if your child’s 504 plan includes services, they might need to be adjusted.

You can suggest different accommodations that may better suit your child. Often, you can persuade the school to make these changes. If the school doesn’t agree, though, you may have to learn about options for resolving 504 plan disputes.

8. Consider an IEP.

If it doesn’t seem like any changes to the 504 plan will help, it may be time to consider through an IEP. You can ask for a free evaluation for special education at any time. Just keep in mind that not every child qualifies for special education services.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.