Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that stops discrimination against people with disabilities by requiring public and publicly funded private schools to provide reasonable accommodations to children with disabilities. Educators can work with the families of children with disabilities to develop customized education plans known as 504 plans that provide accommodations that allow the children to learn in an environment that supports their needs.
What is a 504 plan?
A 504 plan is a blueprint of the accommodations a school can provide to a child with a disability. The accommodations included in 504 plans eliminate barriers that limit a child’s access to full participation in school activities, including the general education curriculum.
A 504 plan adapts a child's learning environment so they can learn in regular classrooms alongside their peers with necessary accommodations, services, and educational aids.
Accommodations that may be provided under a 504 plan include:
- Preferential seating
- Extended time to take tests and exams
- Pre-approved visits to the nurse's office
- Excused latenesses and absences
- Occupational or physical therapy
- Schedule adjustments
- Large print or Braille test booklets
Who qualifies for a 504 plan?
A child qualifies for a 504 plan if they:
- Have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as breathing, walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, and self-care activities
- Have a record of such an impairment
- Are regarded as having such an impairment
To determine if a child qualifies for a 504 plan, they need to be evaluated by a team of qualified professionals who consider the best accommodations for the child. The evaluation includes a review of the child's work, medical records, evaluation reports, direct observation of the child, an interview with the child, their parent, and school personnel, and other assessments.
After an evaluation, a 504 team meeting is held to discuss possible accommodations for the child. The 504 team consists of the child's parent, a 504 coordinator, and someone who can talk about the child’s abilities and skills, such as a teacher or counselor. In addition, if health services are requested as part of the child's 504 plan, a school nurse or other health professional should also be a member of the 504 team.
504 plan vs. IEP
In addition to a 504 plan, some children with disabilities qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a blueprint, or plan for a child's special education experience at school. The eligibility criteria for a 504 plan differs from an IEP.
- Provides services and changes to the learning environment to enable children to learn alongside their peers
- To qualify, a child must have a physical or mental disability, defined as an impairment that substantially limits one or more basic life activities
- The disability must impact their ability to learn in a general education classroom without accommodations
- Provides individualized services and special education to meet a child’s unique needs.
- To qualify, a child's disability must impact their educational performance or ability to benefit from a general education curriculum.
- The child must require a special education program.
- The child must have one or more disabilities belonging to the 13 categories in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
- Emotional disturbances such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders
- Hearing impairments
- Intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairments such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and amputations
- Other health impairments that are due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, ADHD, diabetes, epilepsy, leukemia, nephritis, sickle cell anemia, an Tourette syndrome
- Specific learning disabilities that affect the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language, such as brain injuries, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia
- Speech language impairments such as childhood apraxia of speech, dysarthria, stuttering, vocal cord nodules, polyps, and vocal cord paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries that aren’t congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma resulting in impairments in cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual, or motor abilities
- Visual impairments that adversely affect a child's educational performance, even with correction
504 plan examples
There are no set requirements or standard forms that a 504 plan must follow, so every school district must develop its own policies on 504 plans.
504 plans typically include:
- The child's name and identification information such as date of birth and home address
- The child's disability,diagnosis, or areas of concern (e.g., mobility difficulties, organization and planning difficulties, hyperactivity, or attention difficulties)
- The child's emergency contact information
- The school year
- The child's grade and teacher
- The name of the 504 coordinator
- A detailed explanation of each accommodation the child needs (e.g., extra time given for quizzes, tests, and exams, preferential seating in the front of the classroom, curb-to-school busing with an attendant, large print textbooks, or a personal aide)
Section 504 plans give children with disabilities the tools they need to learn and grow alongside their peers in a general education classroom. 504 plans provide children with disabilities opportunities to experience a school environment that accommodates their needs and helps them reach their full academic potential.
Keep families updated on their child's progress toward developmental milestones with our preschool daily sheet template.
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