“I don’t think my child needs special education, but may need extra support or accommodations at school.” 

What is a 504 plan?

Many parents ask themselves “what is a 504 plan and how could it help my child?” ‘504’ refers to a section of a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. With a 504 plan, students with disabilities can access educational accommodations, aids, and services. Section 504 requires that public schools provide a “free appropriate public education” (called “FAPE”) to every student with a disability — regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. [via OSPI]


How do I know if my child’s disability qualifies for a 504 plan?

Section 504 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Major life activities are activities that are important to most people’s daily lives. Some examples include:

  • Caring for oneself.
  • Performing manual tasks.
  • Walking and breathing.
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking.
  • Learning and working.
  • Eating, sleeping, standing and bending.
  • Reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating.
  • Major body functions, such as functions of the digestive, bowel, bladder, brain, circulatory, reproductive, neurological or respiratory systems.

Substantially limits” should be interpreted broadly. A student’s impairment does not need to prevent, or severely or significantly restrict, a major life activity to be substantially limiting. [via Students Rights: Section 504 PDF]


How can I get my child evaluated for a 504?

You can ask for your child to be evaluated for a 504. You will need to make your referral in writing to your school and ask that they evaluate whether or not your child has a disability and needs accommodations, aids, and services.


What is the difference between a Section 504 plan and an IEP?

There are two requirements for a 504:

  • A child has any disability which can include learning and attention issues.
  • The disability must interfere with the child’s ability to learn. Section 504 has a broader definition of a disability than IDEA. That’s why a child who doesn’t qualify for an IEP might still be able to get a 504.

There are two requirements for an IEP:

  • A child has one or more of the specific disabilities listed in the IDEA. These can include:
    1. Learning disabilities
    2. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
    3. Emotional disorders
    4. Cognitive challenges
    5. Autism
    6. Deaf and hard of hearing
    7. Speech or language impairment
    8. Developmental delay
    9. Physical disabilities
    10. Partial sight or blindness
    11. Traumatic brain injury
  • The disability must affect your child’s ability to learn in the general education curriculum; they need to be taught in a special way. [via ParentCenter]


What if my child has a medical diagnosis?

There are three important ideas to know about a medical diagnosis:

  • A school cannot require a parent to provide a medical diagnosis to evaluate a student. However, a diagnosis can give helpful information for the 504 team.
  • The school could request a medical evaluation, at no cost to the parent, if the 504 team needs medical information to make a decision.
  • A medical diagnosis does not always mean that a student needs a 504 plan. Doctors cannot prescribe a 504 plan—only the school 504 team can make that decision. However, the 504 team must consider the information a doctor provides when evaluating a student.


Condition specific 504 accommodations:

Accommodation ideas to consider with your 504 team*:

100 Effective Accommodations and Services

The following suggested accommodations/services can be used for students experiencing academic and/or behavioral difficulties. Remember, every student is different and accommodations need to be decided by the Section 504 Team, which includes the parents.

  1. Provide study carrels.
  2. Use room dividers.
  3. Provide headsets to muffle noise.
  4. Seat child away from doors/windows.
  5. Seat near model (student or teacher).
  6. Provide time-out area.
  7. Rearrange student groups (according to instructional needs, role models, etc.).
  8. Group for cooperative learning.
  9. Vary working surface (e.g., floor or vertical surface such as blackboards).
  10. Simplify/shorten directions.
  11. Give both oral and written directions.
  12. Have student repeat directions.
  13. Have student repeat lesson objective.
  14. Ask frequent questions.
  15. Change question level.
  16. Change response format (e.g., from verbal to physical, from saying
  17. Provide sequential directions (label as first, second, etc.).
  18. Use manipulatives.
  19. Alter objective criterion level.
  20. Provide functional tasks (relate to child’s environment).
  21. Reduce number of items on a task.
  22. Highlight relevant words/features.
  23. Use rebus (picture) directions.
  24. Provide guided practice.
  25. Provide more practice trials.
  26. Increase allocated time.
  27. Use a strategy approach.
  28. Change reinforcers.
  29. Increase reinforcement frequency.
  30. Delay reinforcement.
  31. Increase wait time.
  32. Use physical warm-up exercises.
  33. Use specific rather than general praise.
  34. Have a peer tutor program.
  35. Provide frequent review.
  36. Have student summarize at end of lesson.
  37. Use self-correcting materials.
  38. Adapt test items for differing response modes.
  39. Provide mnemonic devices.
  40. Provide tangible reinforcers.
  41. Use behavioral contracts.
  42. Establish routines for handing work in, heading papers, etc.
  43. Use timers to show allocated time.
  44. Teach self-monitoring.
  45. Provide visual cues (e.g., posters, desktop number lines, etc.).
  46. Block out extraneous stimuli on written material.
  47. Tape record directions.
  48. Tape record student responses.
  49. Use a study guide.
  50. Provide critical vocabulary list for content material.
  51. Provide essential fact list.
  52. Use clock faces to show classroom routine times.
  53. Use dotted lines to line up math problems or show margins.
  54. Provide transition directions.
  55. Assign only one task at a time.
  56. Provide discussion questions before reading.
  57. Use word markers to guide reading.
  58. Alter sequence of presentation.
  59. Enlarge or highlight key words on test items.
  60. Provide daily and weekly assignment sheets.
  61. Post daily/weekly schedule.
  62. Use graph paper for place value or when adding/subtracting
  63. Provide anticipation cues.
  64. Establish rules and review frequently.
  65. Teach key direction words.
  66. Use distributed practice.
  67. Provide pencil grip.
  68. Tape paper to desk.
  69. Shorten project assignment into daily tasks.
  70. Segment directions.
  71. Number (order) assignments to be completed.
  72. Change far-point to near-point material for copying or review.
  73. Put desk close to blackboard.
  74. Incorporate currently popular themes/characters into assignments for motivation.
  75. Repeat major points.
  76. Use physical cues while speaking (e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc.).
  77. Pause during speaking.
  78. Use verbal cues (e.g., ―Don’t write this down, ‖ ―This is important‖).
  79. Change tone of voice, whisper, etc.
  80. Use an honor system.
  81. Collect notebooks weekly (periodically) to review student notes.
  82. Reorganize tests to go from easy to hard.
  83. Color code place value tasks.
  84. Use self-teaching materials.
  85. Do only odd or even numbered items on a large task sheet.
  86. Use a primary typewriter or large print to create written material.
  87. Provide organizers (e.g., cartons/bins) for desk material.
  88. Teach varied reading rates (e.g., scanning, skimming, etc.).
  89. Provide content/lecture summaries.
  90. Use peer-mediated strategies (e.g., ―buddy system‖).
  91. Call student’s name before asking a question.
  92. Use extra spaces between lines of print.
  93. Color code materials/directions.
  94. Use raised-line paper.
  95. Circle math computation sign.
  96. Establish a rationale for learning.
  97. Use hand signals to cue behavior (e.g., attention, responding)
  98. Use advance organizers.
  99. Help students develop their own learning strategies.
  100. Provide calculators.
(from the U.S. Department of Education)

Where can I learn more about the Section 504?

Steps to Success: Communicating with Your Child's School

Steps to Success: Communicating with Your Child’s School

Steps to Success offers specific communication skills that may be helpful to parents as they develop and maintain partnerships with their child’s school. Read more…

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