504 plans can help kids who need more support in public school. The name of this kind of plan can sound a bit scary. But the concept is straightforward. A 504 plan makes changes at school so that your child can learn.
Some people mix up 504 plans with
. They’re not the same. Special education is special instruction for kids who need more than standard teaching. A 504 plan, on the other hand, is about making sure the classroom fits how your child learns.
This overview can help you understand 504 plans and lead you to more in-depth information.
How a 504 Plan Can Help Your Child
The main thing a 504 plan does is make changes at school to support your child’s learning. These changes are called accommodations.
You may have heard of kids who get extra time on tests. Or kids who get audiobooks because of reading challenges. You might even have seen kids who have a keyboard for typing because they have a tough time with handwriting. These are all examples of accommodations.
With a 504 plan, the school will work with you to decide which accommodations your child needs. There’s a lot of flexibility to come up with accommodations, as long as your child needs them.
The point of a 504 plan is not to change what your child learns. It’s to change how your child learns. Your child will be reading the same books, doing the same math, and working on the same material as other kids. But your child might be doing it a little differently.
Though not as common, sometimes a 504 plan also offers services. A 504 plan might give your child a study skills class or some type of therapy, for example.
Not every child can get a 504 plan. To get a 504 plan, your child has to have a condition that gets in the way of learning. A common example is ADHD. A 504 plan may make changes—like frequent breaks in class—that help a child with ADHD focus.
Getting a 504 plan starts with the school evaluating your child. The school looks at different things to learn about your child. It may review your child’s medical diagnosis, if there is one. The school may also look at your child’s grades, test scores, and teacher recommendations.
Even though a 504 plan can help your child, you might still have concerns.
One worry you may have is that teachers won’t follow what’s in the plan to help your child. But the law is on your side—school staff are required to follow the plan.
Another common concern is what a 504 plan means for a child’s future. You may worry that it will put your child on a lower academic track, or not lead to a high school diploma.
Keep in mind that kids with 504 plans stay in the general education classrooms. Your child can still be honors or even take AP classes. Also, by law, schools have to help kids with 504 plans graduate with the same high school diploma as other students.
Some families worry that a 504 plan will label their child. Schools must keep your child’s records confidential, though. Nowadays, teachers also use different approaches with many kids, not just kids with 504 plans. Your child doesn’t need to stick out.
No matter how you feel, it’s a good idea to talk to your child about their challenges. You should also discuss what a 504 plan means. Kids do better in school and life when you talk openly.