We understand how intimidating and/or stressful any meeting concerning your child can be. Here, we hope to reduce your angst by providing a brief overview of what to expect in a 504 Plan Meeting specifically and welcome any and all questions that you may still have following the reading of this article.
What is a 504 Meeting?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (commonly referred to as Section 504) is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Those programs include public school districts, institutions of higher education, and other state and local education agencies. To qualify under Section 504, a student must have a disability and that disability must limit a major life function. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008 (ADA) broadened the definition of disability in the ADA as well as in Section 504. The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.
Each 504 Meeting includes the following participants:
- The learner (dependent on age/maturity)
Each member of the 504 Meeting Committee typically provides insight into the learner’s strengths, areas of need, and accommodations (present or future) throughout.
How is it different from a SST? IEP?
We realize how confusing all of the acronyms can be, so fear not – we are here to help!
The SST, Student Study Team, is usually less formal than a 504 or IEP meeting and does involve documentation, but the information discussed is not upheld by the law. So, teachers will delineate recommendations and an action plan within this meeting and will follow through as best they can without repercussions if they are unable to reach a level of compliance. A 504, on the other hand, is a legal document that delineates accommodations and modifications upheld by the law.
The IEP, Individualized Education Program, involves the IDEA (The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act). We will dive deeper into IEP’s next week but generally speaking, the IDEA is less involved in 504s than they are in IEPs. Because of this–and the overarching purpose of 504 meetings–the school does not require measurable growth or specific goals with 504s like it does with IEPs.
How do I best prepare for a 504 as a caregiver?
Prior to the meeting, it is important to do your homework! Prepare a list for the following aspects of your learner’s profile: relevant background information, strengths/interests, areas of challenge, potential solutions for said challenges. If your learner is old enough and/or self-aware, it’s always a good idea to ask them the same questions that you will need to report to during the 504 Meeting. You know how to speak with your child best, of course, just be sure to stress that the purpose of the meeting is to best support their learning needs by providing strategies to help them access their full potential. Your learner should be part of the process one way or another. Sometimes, learners are asked to join the meeting and, therefore, would need to have a discussion with you prior to the meeting anyways. Feel free to review understood.org’s tips about 504s Meetings or having a productive meeting as well!
What happens during and after the 504 Meeting?
During the meeting, bring your notes, work samples, and writing utensils or your device to add to your previously delineated thoughts. Try to maintain a positive outlook before, throughout and after the meeting. Educators typically have your learner’s best interest at heart and want to see he/she/they succeed. Sometimes that means your child needs a little support to realize and reach their goals which is why we adults need to come together to make it happen!
At the conclusion of the team meeting, the facilitator will ask you to sign the notes that they took during the meeting (in person or electronically if you met virtually) and provide you with a copy. Within the notes, they will list the areas that you prepared, relevant accommodations/modifications that they will have tried or will put into place and the next steps which could include a follow-up meeting after a specific number of weeks. Please be sure to read over the team’s takeaways prior to signing the form itself since it is a legal document. Ultimately, all the present parties will also sign the document to substantiate agreement and accountability.
We wish you all of the best in your learner’s 504 Plan Meeting and know that, with the right understanding, preparation, mindset and follow through, your learner will see and feel more successful in their personal learning trajectory and within their school environment!