By Kristin Stanberry
Schools have a lot of leeway when developing 504 plans. So it’s smart to create your own structure and detail. Try these tips as you and the school develop your child’s 504 plan.
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 504 committee, share your ideas and insights about how your child learns best. Tell them what approaches and informal supports 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.
Some schools try to standardize 504 plans for all students with a certain disability, such as ADHD. That may sound efficient, but it can result in an ineffective plan for your child. That’s because different children—even if they fall under the same category of disability—can have different weaknesses and strengths. A child with the inattentive form of ADHD needs different supports than one who is hyperactive and impulsive. Push for accommodations and modifications tailored to your child’s unique needs.
Discuss all of the school settings and situations where your child needs support. Daily classroom work might be a given. But what about support when taking tests or participating in physical education class? Even school field trips and assemblies may be challenging. Be thorough, and ask the committee to consider covering all of the bases.
Vague descriptions aren’t useful when listing your child’s accommodations, modifications, services and supports. The more specific the information is, the less chance there is for misunderstanding. For example, the 504 plan might provide for assistive technology. In this case, 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 certain tests, that needs to be clearly stated.
Make sure your child’s 504 plan lists the type of personnel responsible for providing each accommodation, modification and service, such as the general education teacher or the nurse. The plan should also include the name of the 504 committee leader who’s responsible for the overall plan and is your point of contact. Assigning responsibilities makes it clear who’s accountable for what. Any time you think the plan isn’t being followed, you’ll know which personnel to refer to when you contact the committee leader. And be sure to keep a copy of the 504 plan.
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 him? Or does he find it distracting because he’s next to the door and sees people walking down the hallway? Asking specific questions about the accommodations may help you and the school figure out ways to help him.
The 504 committee should review your child’s 504 plan at least once a year. This is an opportunity to ensure the plan meets the demands of your child’s new school year. It’s important that the plan reflect your child’s current challenges and the specific supports and services he needs. As your child matures, the need for support may decrease in some areas but grow in others as the academic load gets harder. Don’t hesitate to ask the school about the annual meeting if officials don’t contact you first.
Your child’s 504 plan has been set in motion. Is the school delivering what it promised? Use these tips to monitor the situation throughout the year.
How can you ensure your child’s 504 plan meeting is successful? These tips will help you be proactive, prepared and ready to participate in the meeting.
Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education and consumer health/wellness.
Barbara Hubert, M.S.Ed., an adjunct instructor at Hunter College, teaches grad students how to create supportive, accessible, inclusive classrooms.
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Is There a Standard Form or Template for 504 Plans?
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