Aug 022013

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Q: Our school system says dyslexia is not a valid classification for receiving services for 504. What is a 504 plan and are they just for medical conditions?


what is a 504 plan

What is a 504 plan?

A 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to provide equal access to education for kids with disabilities. As far as the federal laws are concerned, Learning Disabilities ARE classified as disabilities.

When it comes to education, the ADA website says,

“No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.

“As directed by Congress, the Attorney General issued regulations implementing title II, which are based on regulations issued under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The title II regulations require public entities to “administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.” The preamble discussion of the “integration regulation” explains that “the most integrated setting” is one that “enables individuals with disabilities to interact with non-disabled persons to the fullest extent possible .”

What is a 504 Plan Supposed to Provide?

One of the MAIN focuses of the 504 Plan is to provide EQUAL ACCESS, and that includes equal access to education. For example, if a child can’t read, providing audio textbooks would give the child access to the SAME course content as other students. Therefore, a child with dyslexia SHOULD have audio versions of all books provided to other students if he is to have equal access.

Somehow, schools think they SHOULD provide audiobooks to children who are blind, but the think it’s “cheating” to provide the same accessibility to kids with reading disabilities? Under federal law, you could easily make the case that your child has an equal right to access to the curriculum if he cannot read. Therefore, he needs a 504 plan. After all, what is a 504 Plan written for!

If your child can’t write well, he can dictate his answers into a digital recorder. He could use speech-to-text software to write compositions. Using a calculator for math can provide accessibility to a child whose working memory prevents him from doing math in his head.

What is a 504 plan written to include?

You are right. 504s are NOT just for medical conditions. They are designed to provide equality and accessibility to education for kids with disabilities. A child with dyslexia may have a 504 plan, but it often isn’t necessary when the child’s IEP contains well-defined accommodations. They can be included in your child’s IEP.

Unfortunately, a lot of schools don’t pay as much attention to accessibility to curriculum for kids with learning disabilities. Therefore, you may want to press for a 504 plan if your child’s IEP does not specify good assistive technology and/or accommodations.

If you’re meeting with resistance from your school, you can direct anyone you are dealing with to Peter Wright’s webpage explaining What is a 504 Plan supposed to specify. The Wright’s page aims to clearly summarize the purposes of 504 in relation to learning difficulties including READING, WRITING, and MATH.

The key for you is to realize 504 plans provide equal access whereas IEPs define your child’s full educational program, including goals for learning. If your child’s IEP is properly written, you don’t usually need both an IEP and a 504 plan. Often the IEPs are not well written and there is nothing in the laws that prevent your child from having a 504 plan.

Side Notes about Schools and Dyslexia

What is a 504 Plan

As a side note, we went through due process with our school system. Our school said “We don’t recognize dyslexia as a disability” –which you, and I, and our attorney, and anyone with any sense knows is hogwash. Dyslexia is clearly a learning disability as defined by the International Dyslexia Association, which can and should be identified by schools ( –you can direct those you are dealing with here too).

However, when going through due process, our attorney pointed out that we should keep our eye on the goal. We were not to be distracted by the school system’s “not really the issue” tactics. They will direct your energies into having your child designated as having dyslexia, when the REAL issue is getting educational services NOW. It is a delay tactic.

So, the approach of “Call it anything you want, but give us services now” works well. Our school system chose to call it a “Language-based Learning disability” — somehow thought they could avoid providing services if they didn’t call it dyslexia!! They wouldn’t address the question of What is a 504 Plan for nor provide an IEP, so we ended up having to fine for our child’s rights through the courts.

Try not to let yourself be too set on getting a diagnosis of “dyslexia.” What your child’s disability is called isn’t half as important as the services your child needs to receive. 😉

Hope that helps!

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