Does your child have a 504 plan? If this is a new development, you may see and hear some new terms as you work with the school. Here are key terms you need to know.
Accommodation: An accommodation is a change in how or where your child is taught—or the materials used for teaching. Accommodations can help kids who are struggling work around their weaknesses. For instance, kids who have trouble writing may be allowed to answer test questions orally. Even with accommodations, kids are expected to learn the same content as their peers.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It covers schools, the workplace and public places. ADA works in tandem with Section 504. Section 504 applies only to K–12 public schools. If your child has a disability, ADA will cover him in the workplace and as an adult.
Disability: Section 504 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a person’s ability to participate in a major life activity, such as learning. Section 504 has a broad definition of “disability.” This is why kids who aren’t eligible for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), including some children with ADHD, might be eligible for a 504 plan.
General education curriculum: This is the knowledge and skills that all students are expected to master. The curriculum varies from state to state. The goal of Section 504 is to make sure that students with disabilities have access to, or can take part in, the general curriculum.
Least restrictive environment (LRE): Students with disabilities must be taught in the same setting as students without disabilities as much as possible. The school must offer services or supports that can help her succeed in a general education classroom.
Major life activity: These can include learning, reading, thinking, writing and concentrating. A child’s disability may substantially limit one or more major life activities. If this is the case, they need to be addressed in the 504 plan.
Modification: A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn. For example, instead of reading a book at his grade level, your child might read a book written for two grade levels lower. In general, a child who needs modifications would have an IEP, not a 504 plan.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973: This is a civil rights law that prohibits disability discrimination. It requires reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Section 504 is the part of this law that applies to public K–12 schools.
Supplementary aids and services: These are supports to help a child learn in the general education classroom. Examples of this are equipment or assistive technology, such as audiobooks or highlighted classroom notes.
Keep this list of terms handy for future reference. Not all of these terms will appear in your child’s 504 plan, but they’ll be part of your discussion with the school. You may also want to learn the key terms that describe your child’s rights.