Are you confused about what a 504 plan is? Do you wonder if it might help your child? Some parents are unsure of the differences between a 504 plan and an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Others are unsure what a 504 plan can offer. Here are some common questions about 504s—and answers that may surprise you.
An IEP seems to give students and parents more power and rights than a 504 plan does. Is a 504 plan watered-down in comparison to an IEP?
It’s true that parents and students have more rights with an IEP. Schools must strictly follow the regulations that govern it. But there’s more to a 504 plan than you might expect. This is especially true if you know what your options are and are willing to pursue them.
A 504 plan can include accommodations, modifications and special services that are similar to those in an IEP. The key is to know what to ask for and to be proactive and involved in developing and monitoring your child’s 504 plan.
My child already gets informal accommodations at school. They really seem to help, and the teacher is great to work with. Is it worth it for me to pursue a 504 plan for my child?
It’s great that your child’s informal accommodations are working so well. However, informal accommodations can fall by the wayside in some situations. For example, this can happen if your child has to change teachers mid-year. Formalizing accommodations in a 504 plan assures that your child will continue to get them.
My child takes medication to manage ADHD. It helps him most of the time. But he struggles at times and could use some extra help. I’ve heard that a child whose symptoms are mostly under control can’t get a 504 plan. Is this true?
Not anymore. An amendment to Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2009 changed that. A student taking medication to manage ADHD can no longer be disqualified from having a 504 plan.
Public schools get federal funding for students with IEPs but not for kids with 504 plans. What incentive do schools have to provide 504 plans?
Schools have less to gain from 504 plans. But they have a lot to lose if they don’t follow the law. While schools don’t get federal funding for students with 504 plans, they do get federal funding for other programs. That federal funding can be withdrawn if they don’t abide by ADA and Section 504. Charges of discrimination against students with disabilities can cost a school in dollars and reputation.
After years of struggling with math, my teenager has been identified with dyscalculia. Is it worth getting a 504 plan so late in the game? My teen was evaluated for an IEP but doesn’t qualify.
A 504 plan could be a great benefit at this point. After years of struggling, your teen could get accommodations to overcome math hurdles. More success in school will be a boost to your teen’s self-esteem. It can also help prepare your teen to request and use some of those same (or similar) accommodations in college and the workplace.
How can I request a 504 plan for my child?
To request a 504 plan for your child, contact the school district. Every school district has its own procedures for implementing Section 504. If your child is being evaluated for an IEP but is found not eligible, the school district may automatically tell you how to apply for a 504 plan as an alternative.
Can I record my child’s 504 plan meeting?
There is no federal law about a parent’s right to record 504 plan meetings. However, most states have a law about this. No matter what your state law is, there are two situations where you should be allowed to record the meeting (or be given a recording by the school district):
- You need a recording in order to understand and participate in the meeting.
- The school district records the meeting. This gives you the right to have a copy.
Check with your school district and your state department of education to find out what the law is where you live.
Who can make changes to my child’s 504 plan?
By law, the school doesn’t have to include a student’s parents on a 504 plan committee. But your input should be considered when the school is making any changes to the plan. Parents also can request changes at the annual review—and more often if necessary.
To propose changes during the school year, contact the head of your child’s 504 committee. Ideally, the committee will meet with you to discuss the changes. The committee must agree to the changes before they can be included in your child’s plan.