A section 504 Plan provides a student with access to the same education that other students are receiving. This access is provided through the use of accommodations that are included in the student’s 504 Plan. Some older students with dyslexia, for example, may have an accommodation in their 504 Plans that allows listening to the textbook using “text to speech” (like an audiobook) rather than reading so that they can have access to the same instruction as their peers. Students with ADHD may be accommodated by frequent breaks during class, extended time to take a test, and fidgets or wiggle chairs to help them pay attention. Students with dysgraphia (a writing disorder), may find that using a special pencil grip or typing on a computer rather than hand-writing accommodates their disability and levels the playing field for them in the classroom. Accommodations such as these can be put into a 504 Plan to enable students access to learning.
Many families wonder about the difference between an Individual Education Program (IEP) and a 504 Plan. An IEP is for students whose disabilities affect their educational performance and therefore create the need for specialized teaching or instruction. IEPs create “individualized” or specially designed instruction for a child. Simply put, students with an IEP get different or extra instruction, help, and/or services to address their disabilities, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
Although eligibility is meant to be broad, many families find that schools and school districts initially deny their children a 504 Plan. Sometimes this is because school staff neglect to follow the proper procedures or make decisions without sufficient data collection or information. In those cases, it is important to understand exactly what is required for 504 eligibility and to ensure that schools are fulfilling their requirements under the law.
There also are situations where a child has a 504 Plan but the school does not follow it or does not provide the accommodation the child is entitled to have. Schools may simply ignore or refuse accommodations like extended time, frequent breaks, or use of word processing software (typing). In these instances, we work with Maryland schools and parents to ensure that students receive the accommodations they are entitled to have under Section 504.
We frequently work with families and schools to create 504 Plans that help students succeed in school. When students are denied the 504 Plans they need, we have successfully appealed many 504 eligibility decisions so that students gain access to the learning they are guaranteed under the law.