What is a 504?
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications.
Accommodations change how your child learns, not what he learns. Accommodations don’t lower the expectations for what students learn.
Types of Accommodations
Accommodations can involve changes to various things related to learning. Here are four categories of accommodations.
• Presentation: A change in the way instructions and information are presented. Example: Letting a child listen to audiobooks instead of reading a text.
• Response: A change in the way a child completes assignments or tests. Example: Allowing a child give spoken answers instead of written ones.
• Setting: A change in the environment where a child works. Example: Allowing a child to take a test in a separate room with fewer distractions, or in smaller group.
• Timing and scheduling: A change to how much time a child has to complete a task, or being allowed to take breaks. Example: Providing extra time on tests for a child.
Vague descriptions aren’t useful when listing your child’s accommodations, modifications, services and supports. The more specific the information is, the less chance there is for misunderstanding. For example, the 504 plan might provide for assistive technology. In this case, it should name the technology as well as when and where your child will use it. If your child can use it for regular classroom work but not for taking certain tests, that needs to be clearly stated.
Modifications change what a child learns and by what grade level.
Modifications are also used to change:
• How things are graded: Some teachers use pass/not pass instead of letter grades.
• How tests are handled: A practice test might help the student prepare for the real deal. Or there may be two rather than four answer choices on a multiple-choice test.
• How things are taught: The teacher might use more prompting and cueing to help the student determine the right answers. Class material may be written at an easier level of understanding.
• Homework and classwork: Sometimes students who work at a slower pace will be given fewer or shorter class assignments and less homework.
***A Word of Caution on Modifications
Lindy Crawford, Ph.D., a member of the Professional Advisory Board for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, says it’s important to know the difference between accommodations and modifications. She says that allowing students to use modifications can end up lowering what’s expected of them and what they have a chance to learn.
This information and more can be found at www.understood.org.