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As a 15-year educator, I have seen countless 504 plans for students ranging from attention deficit disorder to students with diabetes.
A 504 plan is a legal document used to give students with disabilities accommodations in the classroom to equalize educational opportunities with their non-disabled peers. It is a branch of special education services. To receive a 504 plan a student must have a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more of major life activities.
How to Request a 504
To start the process, parents or teachers should contact their school counselor and request the student in question be evaluated for Section 504.
Teachers, who make a request, have usually implemented several accommodations for the student and have noted of the success those implementations. If those accommodations are unsuccessful, the teacher may refer the student for a 504 evaluation.
If a parent is making the referral, the parent/guardian will have to provide some sort of diagnosis from the child’s pediatrician or mental health provider stating the disability.
With either referral, the school counselor must have signed parental permission to begin the evaluation process. This consists of evaluating the student’s grades, behavior, test scores, medical history (the school nurse usually gives the student a vision and hearing test), and social/emotional wellness.
Parents and teachers fill out forms to give input on the student’s day-to-day behaviors and any red flags they may have noticed. All this data is presented at a formal 504 meeting where a general education teacher, parent, administrator, school counselor, and in some cases, when the child is old enough to advocate for him or herself, the student, meet to discuss the evaluation. The group then determines the appropriate accommodations for the student’s disability.
504 Best Practices
Now, 504 plans are not be used to give your student an advantage. If your student has a disability, but it is not affecting learning, a 504 can be denied.
Some typical diagnoses that qualify for a 504 include:
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral issues such as oppositional defiant disorder
- Medical issues including, but not limited to diabetes, cancer, epilepsy
- Mental illnesses
- Visual or hearing impairments
Some frequently used accommodations include:
- Allowable snacks and water
- Behavioral plan
- Extra time on tests and homework
- Modified work
- Oral administration of tests and quizzes
- Passes to the nurse, bathroom, and/or counselor
- Preferential seating
- Shortened assignments
After a year of using a 504, it is best practice to revisit the situation. Another meeting is held to make any necessary changes to the plan. After three years, a new evaluation is completed to determine if the student is still eligible for services. The 504 follows the student each year to whatever school he or she attends through high school.
For college, the student must seek out disability services, which is very different from previous years. Many colleges have a disability services coordinator or a 504/ADA coordinator. It will be the student’s responsibility to seek out services. Professors will not consult with students’ families, counselors, or administration to determine disabilities. This requires the student to be an advocate for his or her educational services.
Parents, please prepare your graduating seniors for this change in pace. They will have to take on this vital role if they want or need services.
Navigating the 504 process can be tricky, but your school counselor should be able to guide you through it seamlessly. If you, as a parent, ever feel like the 504 plan is not being followed, please contact your school counselor or administrator to let him or her know. It’s imperative teachers follow the plan as it is written. Teachers cannot decide to refuse accommodations or change accommodations on the plan. If they feel changes need to be made or items need to be removed, a 504 committee must come together and have another 504 meeting to make those decisions as a group. Remember, you are your child’s biggest advocate. Use your voice, ask questions, and if you feel like something is off, it probably is.
In the comments below, share about your 504 experiences and advice.