Last week, we talked about how to have a child evaluated to see if they have a learning disability, and if so, how to formulate an IEP, which is a set of education related goals individualized for each special needs child which involve therapeutic or educational assistance.
Today we are talking about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which ensures that children with special needs (which is different from a learning disability) have equal access to public education. Section 504 plans are created to outline the specific needs of the child and how the public school system will accommodate the needs.
IEPs and Section 504 plans are related topic and can easily be confused, but they are very different from one another.
What is the purpose of a Section 504 Plan?
Three words: accommodations and modifications. 504 plans are for the purpose of making school accessible to all children. Sign language interpreters, aides to take notes in class for a child with autism, and special classroom seating for hyperacticve kids are some examples.
- A student with ADHD who has above average reading skills with a deficit in comprehension and sequencing does not qualify for special education. Her teacher can document her need for more test taking time through the 504 coordinator at the school.
- A student with diabetes may use a 504 plan to spell out his insulin routine and dietary needs.
- A student with a ventricular shunt may use a 504 plan to outline emergency procdeures in case of malfunction or accident. It also allows for the child to be included in all activities and that the necessary equipment be provides for Physical Education or extracurricular sports (if the child and his doctor agree he can participate).
Furthermore, Section 504 states that a school cannot require parents to waive liability as a condition of giving medicine. Class credit cannot be denied for absences due to reasons related to the documented medical condition.
504 plans do not provide any therapeutic serivces or education assitance. Children with a learning diability will receive assistance in the Resouce Room through an IEP. Help for students who do not have a learning disability but are performing below benchmarks for their grade level fall under No Child Left Behind, and they receive assistance through the Title 1 program teacher.
I think my child needs a Section 504 Plan. Where do I begin?
The criteria for 504 plans are not as clear as for IEPs. The best place to start is with the school’s guidance counselor. The majority of school districts deem them the buidling 504 plan coordinator. 504 plans should be developed by a committee, consisting of the student with a disability (if appropriate), the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s), the student’s teacher(s), the student’s counselor, and the 504 coordinator.
Common 504 plan accomdations for Children with ADHD (Source, NAMI Beginnings, Winter 2006):
- Modified homework assignments and testing;
- Supervision of homework assignments;
- Reduction in the amount of written work and/or modified deadlines to complete assignments;
- Access to a computer for written work, if easier than hand written work;
- Alternate seating arrangements in the classroom;
- Use of helpful tools (calculator, tape recorder, electric spell checker);
- Continual progress reports assessing behavior and/or assignments;
- A behavioral intervention plan or social skills training.
This is overwhelming. Help!
Don’t despair. Remember, you and the school staff are partners in your child’s education. Keep your interactions as positive as you can. If you are interested in having a parent who has been in your shoes before help you, contact Parent to Parent USA(P2PUSA). P2PUSA is a national non-profit organization committed to promoting access, quality and leadership in parent to parent support across the country.
For More information, I recommend these sites:
- Children With Diabetes: Sample 504 and IEP Plans
- ADDitude Magazine: Sample Letter to Request Accommodations for ADHD Students
- Wrights Law: Discrimination: Section 504 and ADA
Image credit: http://liveimageserver.dlf.org.uk/mee/classes_photos/2779.jpg
written by Astacia Carter, who is a stay-at-home mom of 2 girls. Her younger daughter (6) has cerebral palsy with developmental delay and her older daughter (8) has ADHD with sensory dysfunctions. She blogs about their journey every chance she can get. Her story of going from the work force to home is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms. When she is not driving to and from schools, therapies and changing diapers, she is a web site designer and social media geek .
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