What are Florida’s requirements for a 504 plan? I will also provide three main tips for students and parents trying to obtain a 504 Plan Florida. The first thing to know is that a 504 plan is a federal law. So, it’s not specific to Florida but to all 50 states. It is codified in the Rehabilitation Act and specifically section 504. A 504 plan is to prevent discrimination against students who may have disabilities in the public school or charter school setting. The 504 plan in Florida itself utilizes reasonable accommodations to protect that student from different types of discrimination. The Florida Department of Education provides A Parent and Teacher Guide to Section 504: Frequently Asked Questions which is a great resource for Florida parents and students.
Who Qualifies For a 504 Plan?
Federal law states that to qualify for a 504 plan, the student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. It’s two prompts. One, the student must have that type of impairment or disability, and two, it has to limit a major life activity substantially. In a way, in the classroom setting, this sort of impairment or disability, if there are no accommodations, would be that the school is discriminating against them. Let’s talk about what that looks like.
504 Plan Florida ADHD
If a child gets a diagnosis, again, it can be mental or physical. It might be ADHD. It could be mental anxiety. Physical, perhaps the student is in a wheelchair or needs special equipment to walk or to function. Those things that limit major life activities within the classroom would qualify them for a 504 plan. So, let’s go through three tips I have for parents or students trying to get a 504 plan in Florida. The Florida Department of Education offers the District Implementation Guide for Section 504.
The first tip would be to get an actual diagnosis from a healthcare provider. So, even before you start the 504 processes with the school or let them know that you want accommodations for the student, I would first go to your healthcare provider and get an actual diagnosis. If this is a mental impairment, a therapist, or sometimes it could just be your general or primary provider, could diagnose. A pediatrician can even diagnose at that level as well. But if it’s something specific, they may need to go to some specialist.
There may be multiple diagnoses working together, or there may be something super specific, and you need to go to a specialist to have that diagnosis. So, tip one, get your diagnosis. You want to look for your healthcare providers and set something up with them. Also, discuss what’s happening at school, so they have a clear picture whenever they decide on the diagnosis. After you get that, my second tip is to notify the school in writing.
The school is required to evaluate them to see if the child qualifies for the 504 plan. But it’s essential to have it in writing. You can send them a formal letter. You can also email, but I would send that in a formal letter requesting that your child obtain a 504 plan and that they seek those accommodations. You also want an idea of what accommodations you will be asking for, which leads me to my third tip.
So, you now have a diagnosis for your child. You’re asking for them to be evaluated. At this time, the school would likely be at the healthcare provider’s diagnosis. Sometimes the school needs to provide evaluations and discuss things with the general education classroom teacher. If they observe that the child has difficulties within that classroom, they collect all that data. They will decide if the child qualifies. You’ve done the first part—they have a diagnosis.
The second part is in the evaluation if it is substantially affecting, like we said, a significant life activity, which would be in a classroom.
Once that happens, we’ve got a clear picture of the diagnosis and the difficulties. Then at that point, the team would create the 504 plan. And again, this leads me to my third tip for accommodations.
When you go into the 504 meeting with the 504 coordinators, sometimes the general education teacher and occasionally administrative staff are all together and coming to create this. Essentially a contract with what accommodations will be provided to that student. It’s essential to be specific as possible on what accommodations are needed, and you should always ask for the full extent. What does this look like?
504 Plan Florida Benefits
So, let’s say the student has a diagnosis of anxiety, and the teachers and staff have also evaluated and observed that when they give a test, this child may have panic attacks or symptoms of anxiety. So, in the accommodations, you could ask. The parent should have an idea of what they think. Parents know their children best; you can also speak with your student or child and see what they think they feel more comfortable with. It could look like accommodation so the child could go to a quiet place outside the classroom to take any exam.
Accommodations could also be that they have extended time. Again, you want to be careful because extended time is extensive. Sometimes it will state double the time of whatever is initially given for the exam or three times. It just depends. Sometimes someone can read the tests to the student. Those are all just accommodations surrounding just handing an exam or a test. But you want to think broadly, like getting in and out of the classroom. Is something happening in those transitions that are a substantial obstacle to your child?
Do they need an aide to be with them and a staff member to help them? And then notes. Do notes need to be taken? Let’s say they have a diagnosis of ADHD, and it’s difficult for them to follow along with what the teacher is saying. They may need aid or another student to take notes so that they are not substantially burdened by doing this and are not discriminated against. So again, my three tips are, one, have your healthcare provider. Go ahead and give your child the diagnosis after an exam.
Two, take the diagnosis to the school in writing and formally ask for an evaluation and creation of a 504 plan. Once all that happens, my third tip would be particular about what type of accommodations you’d like for your child. And ask for as much as you need for that student. Don’t just think about instruction. Think about when they’re in the cafeteria, when they’re in the hallway, or when they’re in extracurricular activities. Think broadly so that at that meeting, you get the most accommodations you need so that your child has the best chance of being a successful student.
What are examples of 504 accommodations?
Examples of 504 accommodations may include:
● Providing extra time for tests and assignments.
● Allowing the use of a calculator or other assistive technology during tests.
● Providing a quiet, distraction-free testing environment.
● Allowing the student to take breaks during long assignments or tests.
● Providing the student with a copy of classroom notes or a note-taker.
● Modifying the classroom’s physical environment, such as providing a standing desk or a special chair.
● Allowing the student to use a laptop or other device to take notes or complete assignments.
● Providing the student with alternative homework or modified grading criteria.
● Providing the student with a sign language interpreter or additional support for communication needs.
Is there a downside to having a 504 plan?
One potential downside of having a 504 plan is that it may provide less support and services than an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Because a 504 plan is less individualized, it may provide students with a different level of specialized instruction and related services available under an IEP. It can make it more difficult for some students with disabilities to progress in school and achieve their academic goals. Another potential downside of having a 504 plan is that it may not be as legally enforceable as an IEP. Because a 504 plan is not required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it may not provide students with the same legal protection and rights as an IEP. It can make it more difficult for students with 504 plans to obtain the accommodations and support they need to be successful in school.
What is the difference between IEP and 504 in Florida?
The main difference between an IEP and a 504 plan is the level of support and services they provide. An IEP is a more comprehensive and individualized plan designed to provide students with specialized instruction and related services to progress in school. In contrast, a 504 plan is a less individualized plan designed to provide students with accommodations and modifications to help them access the general education curriculum and participate in school.