What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 plan is for those students who don’t need the support of special education with individualized instruction, but do need support with very specific issues that impact their school performance. It removes barriers to learning and allows students to be successful at school. Often a 504 plan is recommended for students who have been referred for special education, but do not qualify for services, even though they may have a disability.
Who Does a 504 Plan Serve?
My son is an example of a student who can benefit from a 504 plan. He was diagnosed with ADD when he was in the 4th grade. I had long suspected he was affected by this disorder, but it wasn’t until this time that it finally had a significant impact on his life. He could no longer focus at school and homework became a nightly struggle. Medication allowed him to maintain focus at school, while implementing a few strategies helped him successfully complete homework each evening for the next few years.
Now enrolled in the general ninth grade curriculum at our local high school, he tries very hard to be successful. He participates in class discussions and performs well on most tests and quizzes. His biggest issues center around school assignments, a trend that began during the middle school years. He forgets to record specific assignment details in his school planner, keep track of handouts, complete the assignments (both in and out of class), and turn these assignments back in to his teachers. He also has extreme difficulty completing large writing projects. At this point, he struggles to maintain good grades due to constantly missing assignments. I support him at home with a distraction free homework space, daily checking of teacher websites and the online grade book, and getting him started on his tasks, however, it hasn’t been enough. He needs additional support to manage the demands of high school. My son is a candidate for a 504 plan.
504 Plans aren’t only for students for students with learning and attention issues like dyslexia, ADD, dyscalculia, etc., but also for students with medical issues that can also impact schoolwork. Medical conditions may include chronic illnesses like anxiety, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, crohn’s disease, or allergies, as well as temporary illnesses. Anything that causes a significant impairment to learning can qualify a student for a 504 plan.
Why is a 504 Plan Important?
504 plans can fill in the gaps for students. A good plan can provide accommodations, which allow the student to perform as well as their peers by removing any barriers to learning. Remember, these students don’t need specialized instruction, just equal access to learning that may be prohibited due to their impairment.
In my son’s case, he needs accommodations so that his grades can truly reflect his ability, not the effects of his ADD. His plan includes the following:
- My son will scan completed homework assignments and email directly to the teachers.
- Teachers will check my son’s planner to ensure that assignments are written.
- Teachers will break up long-term projects and check progress daily.
- Teachers will collect in class assignments directly from my son
Because students with dyslexia typically have slower reading speeds and poor spelling skills, a 504 plan for one of these students might include:
- Extended time on tests and in class reading assignments.
- Writing assignments will not be graded on spelling, but on content only.
Students with medical conditions will have accommodations specific to their situation, addressing the impact of their impairment on their school success.
It is important to know that 504 plans protect the civil rights of students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This means that students are protected from discrimination based on their disability and must be provided equal access to the same education as their peers. Visit Understanding 504 Plans or A Parents Guide to Section 504 in Public Schools for in depth information on 504 plans.
Written by: Elizabeth Hipwell, M.Ed.
Certified Barton Reading & Spelling Tutor, Dyslexia Consultant