There is nothing scarier as a teacher than to hear the words, “legal document”. Just the thought sends many teachers into early retirement. When I was asked by my district to oversee the 504 process, I honestly considered retirement 19 years early. Unfortunately, my husband said no. So I decided that I needed to make something that seems scary and overwhelming to teachers and myself easier to understand and overcome. After LOTS of research, I’m no 504 pro, but I do feel that the 504 beast is now about the size of a feisty, rabid squirrel. Progress right?
What exactly is Section 504?
Back in 1973, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law basically says that a qualified individual cannot be denied the benefits of or be subject to discrimination from any program or activity that is supported by the government. Any Federally funded program or business is included in this. So if you are at a public school, this includes your students that qualify.
Students who have a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. So a student who might have a physical or mental impairment that affects their walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working would qualify. This also can include eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, thinking, and communicating.
Here are just a few suggestions of impairments that might qualify a person for a 504:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Bipolar Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Emotionally Disturbed
- Learning Disabilities
- Orthopedically Impaired
- Temporarily Disabled
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
- Weight: Obesity, Anorexia, and Bulimia
- Many more!
What are possible accommodations?
Obviously, the list above will require very different accommodations that relate back to whatever the condition is. However, here are a few very popular and common accommodations that you can consider when writing a 504 plan for a student.
- Special seating modifications
- Additional copies of text/materials (enlarged if needed)
- Provide home tutor
- Access and support from school counselor
- Excuse from physical activities
- Alter lesson pacing
- Provide a rest area/period during the day (Frequent breaks)
- Accommodate for absences (with doctor notes)
- Develop medical plans
- Peer support groups
- Audio record lessons
- Provide written work verbally
- Simple instructions or repeat directions frequently
- Tolerate excessive movement
- Adjust assignments to match attention span
- Use a timer to help self-regulate
- Reward system
- Test in small group
- Extended time on assessments
Again, this is VERY condensed. There are so many different possible accommodations and services that can be provided for students. Please check with your district’s 504 coordinator for more detailed lists or to make sure that an accommodation is appropriate for the disability. The purpose is to level the “playing field” and not provide the student a crutch or advantage.
Who writes the 504?
Districts and schools will determine this. Our assistant principals and teachers work together to draft a plan. It is then approved by the parent, 504 committee, and coordinator.
How often should a 504 plan be updated or reviewed?
My county requires that plans are reviewed annually. As a student moves into different grade levels with different requirements, accommodations will change and evolve to meet the needs of the student. If a student has a 504 plan put into place in kindergarten, that plan is more than likely not going to meet that student’s needs in 8th grade, right?
I know! See I told you! You now know enough to be dangerous! Hopefully your 504 beast shrunk a little in size after reading this post. Maybe it isn’t the size of a rabid squirrel, but I sure hope it’s more approachable! Be sure to follow my Pinterest boards for more ways to support all learners in your classroom! Click to follow!