A Teacher’s Guide to 504 Plans

A Teacher’s Guide to 504 Plans
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan is a legal document developed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act that provides equal access to educational programs and activities for students with disabilities. The purpose of a 504 plan is to ensure that students with attention, learning, social, behavioral, or emotional issues receive accommodations that meet their individualized needs in the general education classroom. 

A 504 plan is not the same as an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a separate legal document that provides specialized education services for students with disabilities. Instead, a 504 plan provides accommodations that allow the student to participate fully in the classroom.

Under a 504 plan, students with disabilities may receive accommodations such as preferential seating, extra time on tests and assignments, modified homework assignments, and access to assistive technology. The accommodations provided are specific to each student's needs and are developed through a collaborative process between school staff, parents, and the student. The 504 plan is a legally binding document, and schools are required to follow the accommodations outlined in the plan.

504 plans can be beneficial for students with a wide range of disabilities, including ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, depression, and physical disabilities. By providing accommodations that address the student's individual needs, a 504 plan can help ensure that students with disabilities have the opportunity to succeed academically and fully participate in their learning environment.

How is a 504 Plan Different From an IEP?

A 504 plan and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are both legal documents that provide accommodations and services for students with disabilities. However, there are some key differences between the two.  They differ in scope, process, and eligibility criteria. 

A 504 plan is for qualified students who have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, while an IEP is for students who require special education services due to a disability that affects their ability to learn in the general education classroom. 

One of the main differences between a 504 plan and an IEP is the scope of the accommodations and services provided. An IEP is more comprehensive and includes a specific set of educational goals and objectives, while a 504 plan is focused on providing accommodations to ensure equal access. IEPs may include services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or specialized instruction, while 504 plans focus on accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time, and the use of assistive technology.

Another difference between 504 plans and IEPs is the process for developing and implementing them. While both require a team of school staff, parents, and the student to develop the plan, the process for developing an IEP is more formal and includes a comprehensive evaluation of the student's needs. Additionally, IEPs are reviewed and updated annually, while 504 plans are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the accommodations are still appropriate and effective.

504 vs IEP for Teachers

504 vs IEP for Teachers

 

What Students Can Get a 504 Plan?

Any student who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as learning or social interaction, can be eligible for a 504 plan. “Substantially limits” is the key term here, as that disability has to impact a student at school. Examples of disabilities that may qualify for a 504 plan include ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety, depression, and physical disabilities.

To determine whether a student is eligible for a 504 plan, the school staff will evaluate the student's needs and determine whether they have a disability that substantially limits a major life activity. If the student is eligible, a team of school staff, parents, and the student will develop a 504 plan that outlines the accommodations the student will receive in the general education classroom. 

The accommodations provided under a 504 plan are specific to each student's needs and are designed to ensure that the student can participate fully in the classroom. Some of the accommodations that may be provided under a 504 plan include extra time on tests and assignments, preferential seating, access to assistive technology, and modified homework assignments. 

The accommodations provided will depend on the individual needs of the student and will be developed in collaboration with the student, their parents, and school staff.

It's important to note that not all students with disabilities require a 504 plan. Some students may require more specialized services, such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP), to meet their educational needs. However, for students who only require accommodations to ensure equal access in the classroom, a 504 plan can be an effective tool to support their academic success.

Common Issues That Need Accommodations

There are many reasons why students with disabilities have accommodations and here are some of the most common reasons. 

How is a 504 Plan Made?

The process for developing a 504 plan begins with identifying a student who may be eligible for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Any school staff member, parent or guardian may request accommodations.

Once a student is identified, the school staff will evaluate the student's needs to determine if they have a disability that substantially limits a major life activity. If the student is eligible, a team of school staff, parents, and the student will work together to develop a 504 plan.

The development of a 504 plan is a collaborative process that involves gathering information from a variety of sources. This may include teacher observations, assessments, and input from the student and their parents. A 504 plan doesn’t require a full blown battery of individually administered tests. The data can come from a variety of sources. 

The team will work together to identify the student's individual needs and determine what accommodations will be most effective in meeting those needs. Once the accommodations are identified, they will be documented in a written 504 plan that is reviewed and signed by the student's parents, school staff, and the student (if appropriate). 

The 504 plan is a legally binding document, and schools are required to provide the accommodations outlined in the plan to ensure that the student has equal access to educational programs and activities.

When do 504 Plans End?

When do 504 Plans End

504 plans are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the accommodations are still appropriate and effective. The frequency of the review will depend on the individual needs of the student and may be conducted annually or more frequently if needed.

504 plans will end when the student no longer requires accommodations to participate fully in the general education classroom or when the student transitions out of the school district. 504 Accommodations follow a student into college. 

When a 504 plan ends, the school staff will work with the student and their parents to develop a plan for transitioning the student to the next educational setting.

It's important to note that students with disabilities who require accommodations to participate fully in the general education classroom are protected under federal laws, including the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Schools are required to provide accommodations to qualified students with disabilities, regardless of whether they have a 504 plan or an IEP.

What is a General Education Teacher’s Role in a 504 Plan?

General education teachers play a critical role in the development and implementation of a 504 plan. As the primary classroom teacher for the student, they have firsthand knowledge of the student's strengths and weaknesses and can provide valuable input into the accommodations that will be most effective.

In the 504 plan development process, the general education teacher may be asked to provide information about the student's academic performance, behavior, and social skills. They may also be asked to provide input into the accommodations that will be most effective in the classroom setting.

Once the 504 plan is implemented, the general education teacher is responsible for ensuring that the accommodations outlined in the plan are provided to the student. This may involve modifying assignments, providing extra time on tests, ensuring that the student has access to assistive technology or other items listed in the plan.

It's important for general education teachers to communicate regularly with the  school staff responsible for implementing the 504 plan and parents to ensure that the accommodations are being provided effectively. 

They may also be asked to provide regular progress updates on the student's academic and behavioral performance to the 504 plan team.

Who is Responsible for a School 504 Plan?

Responsibility for a school 504 plan falls on a team of school staff, parents, and the student (if appropriate). The team is responsible for evaluating the student's needs, developing the 504 plan, and ensuring that the accommodations outlined in the plan are provided to the student.

The team responsible for the 504 plan may include the student's general education teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, and other school staff as appropriate. The team may also include outside professionals, such as doctors or therapists, who can provide input into the student's needs.

The school staff responsible for implementing the 504 plan are responsible for providing the accommodations outlined in the plan to the student. This may involve modifying assignments, providing extra time on tests, or ensuring that the student has access to assistive technology. 

Regular communication is an important part of any 504 Plan, especially when it is first implemented to ensure the student’s needs are being met. 

How Can a Teacher Help with 504 Plans?

Teachers play a critical role in ensuring the success of students with 504 plans. As the primary classroom teacher, they are responsible for implementing the accommodations outlined in the plan and ensuring that the student is able to participate fully in the general education classroom.

To support students with 504 plans, teachers can provide accommodations such as modified assignments, extended time on tests, and preferential seating. They can also provide regular feedback to the student and their parents on the student's academic and behavioral progress.

They can also help by learning about the clinical issues their students face. With issues such as ADHD, anxiety, mood disorders, autism and PANS/PANDAS on the rise, understanding how these issues impact the brain and behavior can help a teacher in their day-to-day management of students. 

Teachers can also help to identify students who may be eligible for a 504 plan by monitoring their academic and behavioral performance and communicating concerns to the school staff responsible for the plan. They really can see what is working and what isn’t and can let the team know. 

Resources for Teachers on 504 Plans

There are many resources available to support teachers in understanding and implementing 504 plans for students with disabilities. These resources can provide guidance on developing effective accommodations, communicating with parents and school staff, and supporting the academic and behavioral success of students with disabilities.

Some 504 resources that may be helpful for teachers include:

  • U.S. Department of Education: The U.S. Department of Education provides guidance and resources on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and how it applies to students with disabilities in public schools.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities: The National Center for Learning Disabilities provides information and resources for teachers on supporting students with disabilities, including information on 504 plans.
  • Council for Exceptional Children: The Council for Exceptional Children provides resources and professional development opportunities for teachers working with students with disabilities, including information on 504 plans.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America: The Learning Disabilities Association of America provides information and resources for teachers and parents on learning disabilities and accommodations, including information on 504 plans.
  • State and Local Education Agencies: State and local education agencies may provide resources and support for teachers working with students with disabilities, including information on developing effective accommodations and implementing 504 plans.

In addition to these resources, teachers can also seek support from school staff responsible for developing and implementing 504 plans, such as the vice principal, guidance counselor or school psychologist.

504 plans are an important tool for supporting the academic and behavioral success of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. The development and implementation of a 504 plan is a collaborative process that involves school staff, parents, and the student. General education teachers play a critical role in supporting students with 504 plans and ensuring that the accommodations outlined in the plan are provided effectively.

There are many resources available to support teachers in understanding and implementing 504 plans for students with disabilities. These resources can provide guidance on developing effective accommodations, communicating with parents and school staff, and supporting the academic and behavioral success of students with disabilities. If a teacher is unsure about their role or how to implement these accommodations, they should seek support from school staff responsible for 504 plans.

Grab my Ultimate Guide to 504 Accommodations to get detailed 504 accommodations for the biggest issues impacting children and teens at school: attention, memory, anxiety, behavior, and more than 20 issues that impact learning, attention, and emotional functioning at school.

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Examples of 504 Plans

A school accommodation plan can include a variety of accommodations that can support a student in the classroom. Seeing an example of a 504 Accommodation Plan can be helpful for school personnel and parents too. 

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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