Each child learns differently. Great teachers understand this and find avenues to connect with their students to get results. Nevertheless, children with learning disabilities will need special education or individualized instruction through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

An IEP was developed to ensure that elementary- and secondary-aged children with an identified disability receive specialized instruction and services. A 504 Plan, on the other hand, is for children in primary or secondary education to receive accommodations to help ensure their academic success. It does not provide individualized instruction and is not a type of special education. Nevertheless, the goal is to give children with learning disabilities access to the same education as their classmates.

Typical accommodations provided by a 504

The 504 Plan does not alter what the children learn, but it does change how the students learn it. This involves:

  • Extra time for taking tests
  • The ability to leave the classroom for short breaks
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Study skills classes
  • Use of text-to-speech technology for dyslexic students
  • Positioning of children in classrooms to be closer to teachers

Rights protected by law

These plans are protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as part of civil rights law that enables the right to free appropriate education. While there are fewer rights or safeguards than an IEP, the 504 can still be a tremendous help to students.

Parents, however, must be proactive in the process and should attend meetings for updating the plan. Schools should notify parents when their child is identified with an issue or evaluated. Parents should also have access to see records kept by the school.

The parents also as the right to file a complaint about the 504 process or how the school is meeting the conditions of the plan. As the child’s biggest advocate, parents can also consult with attorneys who have experience protecting the rights of students with disabilities here in Alabama.