If there ever was a process within the school experience which causes more stress and worry for parents, there is little else that rivals the Section 504 Plan. As a result, our practice has served families across the country as one of the leading advocacy agencies successfully addressing 504 Plans and related education decisions.
From an experienced advocate perspective, we love Section 504 Plans! And we enjoy working with parents and staff on this path toward necessary accommodations and modifications. We are absolutely certain you will feel both well informed and relieved for the process is actually fairly simple. It’s just that there are a number of people who facilitate the process with a limited scope of reference or an inflexible interpretation of the laws guiding this federally mandated program:
Section 504 provides: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance“.
In a nutshell, the work we do in this area is guided by clear questions:
What is the disability of concern? How is this understood by clinicians as well as parents & educators? According to federal and many state laws, all there needs to be is a “suspect” or “regarded” of a disability to initiate a 504 evaluation:
(A) has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but that is treated by a recipient as constituting such a limitation;
(B) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such impairment; or
(C) has none of the impairments defined in paragraph (j)(2)(i) of this section but is treated by a recipient as having such an impairment.
How does the disability impact the school / learning experience:
What classroom-based evidence does the team have to document their perspective?
How do these perceptions and understandings appear within assessments and evaluations?
How does this compare with what we know as “typical expected behaviors or performance” compared to peers?
What interventions are currently being implemented or would be the next best step?
And by addressing 504 Plan requests from this perspective, it really takes the struggle out of the experience, and shifts the conversation to an evidence-based approach: no argument, minimal conflict, and most notably, less worry / fear / or self-interest that may often get in the way.
Here are additional resources for your review:
WASHINGTON STATE 504 GUIDELINES RESOURCE