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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Developing a Successful 504 Plan for K-12 Students

From NCLD.org
The National Center for Learning Disabilities

July 15, 2014

A 504 Plan can be an effective way to support a K-12 student in the regular classroom when the child’s learning disability (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) may not be impacting their learning in ways that qualify them for special education services, but when it still substantially limits them in performing one or more major life activity (e.g. reading, writing, thinking, concentrating, etc.) as required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The 504 Plan is different than the Individualized Education Program (IEP); however, when written and implemented properly, the 504 Plan can be a successful way to support certain students who — with support, accommodations and modifications — can work right along with their classmates and make satisfactory progress in school.

Ideally, a good 504 Plan:
  • Lists the specific accommodations, supports or services that will be provided and who will provide them;
  • Names the person responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented;
  • Is distributed to all of the child’s teachers, specialists, and support staff;
  • Is placed in the child’s school file.

At the beginning of each school year, it’s appropriate for parents to email or meet with all of the teachers working with the child to make sure they have a copy of the 504 Plan and understand each accommodation or support required. It’s also a good opportunity to share examples and ideas with your child’s teachers about how they can fully implement the plan and support your child’s learning needs.

Several examples of the support, accommodation or modifications to include in a 504 Plan are:

Classroom:
  • providing access to a computer for all writing assignments;
  • having a note taker;
  • assigning a study buddy;
  • doing daily backpack check;
  • assistive technology (screen readers, word prediction software, spellers, other).

Testing:
  • having the test read aloud (typically when reading skill isn’t being tested);
  • allowing a private testing room or space;
  • providing untimed or extra time for testing;
  • including a different testing format such as large print or font;
  • allowing answers in the test booklet rather than on the answer sheet.

Keep in mind that what is made available to students through a 504 Plan should not be limitedto a pre-determined set of accommodations nor only influenced by the students’ specific disability. Parents have the right to ask for the accommodations that will help support their child and should not have to only consider what we call the "vanilla" package, or set of accommodations that the school says they "always" give to a child with a particular disability or disorder. What works for one student may not work for another.

Here are some important tips to ensuring a successful 504 Plan:
  • Annual review of the 504 Plan. Your school should contact you to review the plan at least once per year to make sure the Plan fully addresses the demands of your child’s upcoming grade. You can always ask to meet during the year if things aren’t going as expected.
  • Parent participation: Always participate in developing and updating the 504 Plan. You know your child better than anyone else and must be part of the discussion to decide what to include or revise in the Plan.
  • Student participation: Have your child attend the 504 meeting and help develop their Plan — especially middle and high school students. This way, they understand and know what services and accommodations they are supposed to receive and can give feedback about whether the plan is working for them.
If, for some reason, you don’t believe a 504 Plan is sufficiently meeting your child’s needs, you can always decide to:
  • revise the 504 Plan;
  • add special education services (although rare, this is allowed under 504 law);
  • re-evaluate for IDEA eligibility;
  • hire outside educational support (e.g. tutor);
  • seek professional advocacy support.

Note: Parents do have some legal rights under Section 504.

Parents are important partners in working with the school to ensure the 504 fully reflects the right amount support the child needs to be successful.

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