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Does your child need a 504 plan?

Parents may find it upsetting to discover that their child is not doing well in school. Children may find there are many aspects of the school day that interfere with their abilities to learn. You may have taken the initiative to have your child tested only to find that he or she did not qualify for special education programs. Does this mean there is nothing you can do to help your child succeed?

By law, schools must make every reasonable effort to accommodate a child's needs. In fact, there is a section of law that prevents any institution receiving government funding from excluding someone because of a disability, and that is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Plans to allow inclusion for students are known as 504 Plans.

IEP or 504?

Students with qualifying disabilities may request intense and detailed accommodations called Individual Education Plans. These IEPs provide personalized assistance for students in need of specific educational services. Focused more on the educational needs of the students, the IEP is a legal contract that requires educators to set goals, make specific accommodations and measure the student's progress.

By contrast, a 504 Plan is more general and less formal. A 504 Plan may be a verbal agreement between you and your child's school for preferred seating or after school tutoring, but it is best to have a signed document.

Examples of 504 accommodations

Since a 504 Plan is broader in scope, it may also include physical accommodations that an IEP would not cover, such as providing easy access to the bathroom for a child with celiac disease or managing the environment if your child has a food allergy. These are other examples of accommodations a 504 Plan may include:

  • Training staff to recognize the onset of an epileptic seizure
  • Providing modifications and strategies if your child has attention deficit disorder
  • Establishing a quiet space if your child has difficulty concentrating during tests
  • Adapting physical activities if your child cannot participate in recess or physical education
  • Using air purifiers if your child has allergies or respiratory troubles

Sometimes the smallest accommodation can make an enormous difference in your child's ability to achieve success in the classroom. Nevertheless, without an IEP, your child's school may be reluctant to take the time to meet with you and provide your child with a chance to learn.

If you are meeting with resistance in your quest to convince your child's Rhode Island school to make accommodations under Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may benefit from seeking the advice of an attorney with experience in special education law.

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