Informal Supports, Health Plans and 504 Plans.
How to help schools and parents ensure that children thrive educationally.
You can request “informal supports” for your child. Informal support plans list supports that families can request the school provide. Informal supports are a good place to start. They allow parents, teachers, and students to work together to create a plan to support students with special needs.
Common Informal Supports:
◦ Frequent stretch breaks
◦ Soft chairs
◦ Cues to focus
◦ Quiet pain scale indicator
◦ Frequent teacher check-ins
◦ Exclusion from PE
◦ Informal Supports are mutually agreed upon and non-binding. Meaning schools & families work together to complete a plan but neither the school nor family is obligated to stick to the plan.
Individual Health Plan
◦ Schools in some states offer Individual Health Plans.
◦ This plan is designed to have medical professionals coordinate with school nurses to ensure that student’s medical needs are being met while they are at school.
◦ Like Informal Support Plans IHP’s are not legally binding. They are mutual agreements between families and schools.
◦ IHP’s are already common for conditions like asthma, diabetes, and severe allergies.
Section 504 states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, 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…” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
What is a 504 Plan?
◦ “504” refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
◦ Thus a 504 plan is designed to ensure students who have a variety of social, emotional, medical, or attention issues receive access to the general curriculum.
◦ In this context “general curriculum” means that student have the ability to do all the things their general education peers can do.
◦ 504 plans DO NOT change what students are expected to learn and do.
◦ 504 plans DO provide ACCOMODATIONS that change how students are expected to accomplish everything their general education peers do.
How do children qualify for a 504?
◦ 504 plans are for Kindergarten – 12th grade students in public schools in the United States with disabilities.
◦ Disability is broadly defined in this law with the following 3 criteria:
Does the student:
1. Have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activity (such as reading or concentrating).
2. Have a record of the impairment. This requires medical documentation.
3. Have an impairment, or a significant difficulty that isn’t temporary. For example, a broken leg isn’t an impairment, but a chronic condition like CRMO is.
◦ Having a disability doesn’t automatically make a student eligible for a 504 plan.
◦ First the school has to do an evaluation to decide if a child’s disability “substantially” limits his ability to learn and participate in the general education classroom.
◦ Be prepared to discuss how a child’s condition limits his/her ability. Examples: A student has a compression fracture in his spine and is unable to attend PE for the year. A student will need to leave school early each month for an infusion. Chronic pain interferes with a student’s ability to concentrate.
◦ This evaluation can be initiated by either the parent or the school.
◦ If you choose to request a 504 plan for your child send a written request to your child’s principal or school counselor.
◦ Send a written diagnosis with your request if possible.
◦ What goes into a 504 Plan? There is not a specific list of requirements for 504 plans. Each state, school district and school create different types of plans.
In general a good 504 plan should include:
What are 504 accommodations?
Four types of 504 accommodations.
Who develops the 504 plan?
A 504 plan is developed by a team of people who are familiar with the student and who understand the evaluation data and special services options.
A 504 committee might include:
General education teacher(s)
The school principal
The school counselor
The child (depending on his age and maturity)
You can ask to be involved in all discussions and meetings about your child’s plan however it’s important to know that the law doesn’t require or guarantee parent participation in these meetings.
After you receive a copy of your child’s 504 plan, keep an eye on how it’s being implemented. This is especially important, because the school isn’t required to give you regular updates on your child’s progress.
How do I prepare for the meeting?
◦ Bring resources. CRMO is rare. Be prepared to explain it to the staff at your child’s school. Educating them on the condition will help them understand what your child needs.
◦ Let your child speak for themselves. Have them write a letter or create a presentation to explain what having CRMO means.
◦ Create a chart like the one shown listing possible accommodations.
◦ Be open minded. Teachers, counselors, and principals have most likely written a 504 plan before. Use their experiences to your advantage.
◦ Be an advocate for your child but be pleasant. You are creating a team to support your child. It works best when everyone is a valued member.
What happens at the meeting
Your child’s 504 plan must be reviewed by the 504 committee every year.
Legally, parents are not guaranteed a seat at the table, but they are encouraged to attend.
Things that may be discussed:
◦ Your child’s strengths. This is a time for you and the team to share success your child has had in and out of school.
◦ Your concerns and suggestions for improving your child’s education. The meeting is a good time to share where you see your child struggling. Creating the chart will help you with this task.
◦ Whether or not accommodations are helping. If they aren’t helping your child as expected, the group needs to discuss upgrading, discontinuing or replacing them. The team should also consider any new instruction and technology tools that might be more helpful for your child.
What happens if we don’t agree
◦ If you disagree with the school’s decisions about your child’s education, there are several ways to dispute it. Here are the steps you can take (usually in this order):
◦ Discuss specific needs with your doctor. Have the doctor put their suggestions in writing.
◦ Request a mediator to help you and the school reach an agreement.
◦ Ask for a hearing before an impartial hearing officer.
◦ File a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights.
◦ File a lawsuit.
Six steps to ensuring the 504 plan your team creates is well implemented.