If you have never set through an IEP or 504 meeting at school, you are missing out on some fun. No wait, I’m thinking of ice cream socials. IEPs and 504s are more like Parent-Teacher Conferences with an added helping of bureaucracy.
Not that they aren’t helpful or necessary. They are. But, the meetings are also a step before a step (a formal written plan) to take other steps (the actionable items in the written plan).
For those who didn’t read Part One, check it out HERE.
The 504 Meeting
I had planned on suggesting a 504 Plan for my son at my conference, but his teacher beat me to the punch and suggested one at the end of the week prior.
I wasn’t surprised, since they were including so many people at the meeting in the first place. Since I already knew what a 504 Plan was, that helped. If you are reading this because you are trying to learn more about 504 Plans, please check out this link to information on Understood.org.
I also have an acquaintance who is a 504 Plan Administrator at a different school, who I tapped for advice about it.
Advice from a 504 Administrator
- The accommodations requested must be reasonable for the school. For example, asking that a staff member give all lesson plans to the parent is not reasonable. That takes a lot of time and effort and would impact the teacher and give the student an advantage.
- Having equal access does not mean the child will get good grades, but it could. This is about leveling the playing field.
- Think of some reasonable accommodations that you think would be beneficial for your child, based on his/her specific needs, that you can suggest.
- The doctor can suggest accommodation s but it doesn’t mean the school has to agree to them.
Potential Accomodations Discussed
For my child specifically, we (as a group) discussed the following accommodations and ideas for my son:
- A private “sneak peek” before the school year begins (to orient himself to the new classroom, his desks, locker, and teachers)
- Preferential seating (such as closer to the teacher)
- Extended time for standardized testing (allow for short breaks at appropriate intervals)
- Organizational assistance (checklists to keep him on task, reminders to turn in assignments, etc.)
- Non-verbal cues to refocus (tap on desktop)
- Use of fidgets to help with concentration during class (so long as they are not distracting to other students)
- Transition and routine change reminders
In addition to discussing accommodations for school, the 504 meeting (or any parent-teacher conference) is a great opportunity for everyone to share information about your child.
This should NOT be about airing grievances. It should be about building a better understanding of the child. As a parent, I know my child’s personality in a way that a teacher who just met him never could. However, the kid they observe at school is sometimes not the one I remember sending off in the morning.
That doesn’t mean that both are not valid observations. School is a very different environment, fraught with social perils, educational demands, and routines that the home doesn’t have. Many students have challenges in school that we can’t always see as parents.
By listening to the teachers, I have learned that my son is better at reading than he thinks he is, has higher levels of anxiety while at school, struggles to build relationships with peers, and dislikes that substitute teachers disrupt routine. From me, his teachers have learned that he has strong academic skills, sometimes lacks self-confidence, craves structure and stability, and loves to help and be involved (engagement).
I’ve heard the phrase “pills don’t teach skills,” meaning that ADHD meds can help with functioning, but don’t teach actionable skills. Likewise, a 504 is not built to teach techniques for dealing with some of the challenges of ADHD. The 504 is just to help both him (and the school) work better in an environment that challenges his ability to focus and learn efficiently.
So, the 504 won’t help him learn to build friendships or gain patience any more than his meds can. As parents, we still have to figure out that whole can of worms somehow.