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Accommodations for students with disabilities

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Do you have a child that has a mental or physical disability but does not need intensive special education? Are you aware of the federal law 504 plan that protects students with disabilities through reasonable accommodations or modifications to ensure they are treated fairly in public schools? The 504 plan is designed to help parents of students with disabilities design a customized education plan which has to be followed by the school system.

To qualify for a 504 plan the student needs to have a disability that "substantially" limits an activity but does not impact their learning in which they would need a special education program. Examples of this would be walking, hearing, seeing, concentrating or medical conditions such as attention deficit disorder or diabetes. If you feel a 504 plan would be beneficial for your child you need to request a team meeting. The team usually consists of parents, principal, classroom teacher and other school personnel such as school nurse, guidance counselor or psychologist. The team will determine if the child's disability interferes with their ability to learn or access school programs.

If the team agrees that your child qualifies for a 504 plan together they will come up with "reasonable" accommodations or modifications. Examples of this would be if your child has asthma and can not run an alternative gym program will be offered. Another example would be if your child is diabetic they may be permitted to eat a snack in the classroom. Maybe your child would benefit by special seat assignments or extension of time on a test.

Maybe you have already talked to the administration and have put some of these accommodations in use. Why do you need a 504 plan? Remember a 504 plan is a federal law that protects students with disabilities from being discriminated against at school. The 504 plan assures that everyone in the school not just the teacher is honoring the plan. It is in essence a legal document that could be taken to court if the school does not follow through.

As a parent you should become familiar with the 504 plan. Since the plan is customized to your child you should know better than any administrator what accommodations would benefit them. Before going to your 504 meeting make sure you can prove that your child's disability is impeding their education. Secondly know before you go to the meeting what you are expecting from the school. You are the best advocate for your child but it takes a team to ensure your child has the best learning experience available to them.

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