504 plans and your child: A guide for families

By The Understood Team

504 plans can help kids who need more support in public school. The name of this kind of plan may be confusing. But the concept is straightforward. A 504 plan makes changes at school so that your child can learn.

Some people mix up 504 plans with . They’re not the same. Special education is special instruction for kids who need more than standard teaching. A 504 plan, on the other hand, is about making sure the classroom fits how your child learns.

This overview can help you understand 504 plans and lead you to more in-depth information.

How a 504 plan can help your child

The main thing a 504 plan does is make changes at school to support your child’s learning. These changes are called accommodations.

You may have heard of kids who get extra time on tests. Or kids who use audiobooks because of reading challenges. You might even have seen kids who have a keyboard for typing because they have a tough time with handwriting. These are all examples of accommodations.

With a 504 plan, the school will work with you to decide which accommodations your child needs. There’s a lot of flexibility with accommodations, as long as your child needs them.

The point of a 504 plan is not to change what your child learns. It’s to change how your child learns. Your child will be reading the same books, doing the same math, and working on the same material as other kids. But your child might be doing it a little differently.

Though it’s not common, sometimes a 504 plan also offers services. For example, a 504 plan might include a study skills class or some type of therapy for your child.

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How to get a 504 plan

Not every child can get a 504 plan. To get a 504 plan, your child has to have a condition that gets in the way of learning. A common example is ADHD. A 504 plan may make changes — like frequent breaks in class — that help a child with ADHD focus.

Getting a 504 plan starts with the school evaluating your child. The school looks at different things to learn about your child. It may review your child’s medical diagnosis, if there is one. The school may also look at your child’s grades, test scores, and teacher recommendations.

Once the evaluation is finished, the school decides if your child needs a 504 plan. Sometimes, the school will evaluate your child for special education and a 504 plan at the same time.

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Common worries about 504 plans

Even though a 504 plan can help your child, you might still have concerns.

One worry is that teachers won’t follow what’s in the plan to help your child. But the law is on your side — school staff are required to follow the plan.

Another common concern is what a 504 plan means for a child’s future. You may worry that it will put your child on a lower academic track, or not lead to a high school diploma.

In almost every case, when kids get a 504 plan, they don’t need to be pulled out for special services or instruction. Their accommodations become part of their usual classes. This includes honors or AP classes.

Some families worry that a 504 plan will label their child. Schools must keep your child’s records confidential, though. Nowadays, teachers also use different approaches with many kids, not just kids with 504 plans. Your child doesn’t need to stick out.

No matter how you feel, it’s a good idea to talk to your child about their challenges. You should also discuss what a 504 plan means. Kids do better in school and in life when you talk openly.

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Key takeaways

  • A 504 plan can make changes at school that help your child learn.

  • Some examples of support are audiobooks or extra time on tests.

  • To get a 504 plan, your child needs to be evaluated by the school.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.