Schools have a lot of leeway when deciding what to put in your child’s 504 plan. And you have the power to help shape those decisions. Here are seven tips to make sure you get the best 504 plan possible for your child.
1. Get involved in the process.
Right from the start, let the school know you want to attend your child’s 504 plan meetings. Approach this with a spirit of teamwork.
When you meet with the school’s 504 plan team, share your ideas and thoughts about how your child learns best. Tell them what approaches and classroom strategies have helped in the past. Be sure to highlight your child’s strengths. You may not be an expert in education, but you’re an expert about your child.
2. Make sure the plan is personalized.
Some schools try to create standard 504 plans for all students with a certain learning difference, like
. That may sound efficient, but it can result in a plan that doesn’t meet your child’s needs.
Different kids—even kids who have the same condition or diagnosis—can have different weaknesses and strengths. A child with ADHD who struggles to focus may need different supports than one who is hyperactive and lacks self-control. Advocate for a plan tailored to your child’s unique needs.
3. Cover all areas where your child needs help.
Discuss all of the school settings and situations where your child needs help. Daily classroom work might be a big need. But what about support when taking tests or exercising in physical education class? Even school field trips and assemblies may be challenging. Be thorough, and work with the school to cover all bases.
4. Be specific about each service.
Vague descriptions aren’t useful when listing your child’s
services, and classroom strategies. The more specific the 504 plan is, the less chance there is for misunderstanding.
For example, your child’s plan might include
assistive technology. If so, it should name the technology as well as when and where your child will use it. If your child can use it for regular classroom work but not for taking tests, the plan should say so.
5. Add teacher and staff names to the plan.
Make sure the 504 plan lists the school staff responsible for each accommodation and service. This could be anyone from a general education teacher to the school nurse. The plan should also list the name of the person responsible for the overall plan. This is your main contact, usually called a 504 plan coordinator.
Assigning things to specific people makes it clear who’s responsible for what. Any time you think the plan isn’t being followed, you’ll know who to talk to. And be sure to keep a copy of the 504 plan.
6. Check in with your child and teachers.
From time to time, talk to your child and your child’s teachers to see how the plan is working. Is sitting in the front of the room helpful for your child? Or is it distracting because your child sits next to the door and sees people walking down the hallway? Asking specific questions will help you and the school figure out ways to make the plan better.
7. Review and update the 504 plan once a year.
The school should review your child’s 504 plan at least once a year. This is a chance to make sure the plan meets your child’s needs in the new school year.
It’s also important that the plan reflect your child’s current challenges, as well as specific services and help that are needed. As your child gets older, some things may fall away and others may be added as the academic load changes. Don’t hesitate to ask the school about an annual 504 meeting if the school doesn’t contact you first.