504’s and IEP’s — What Are Those?

Have you seen the latest internet trend, ‘What Are Those?’ Well, I can almost guarantee your students have. It started with a silly vine of someone making a comment on someone else’s shoes. Now it’s viral on the internet!

A silly internet trend, yes. But I have to say, when I first got an email about my students in 504 Plans, that exact question, in that exact inflection, ran through my head: 504 Plans? What are thoseeeee?

I’ll admit it. I had to do a Google search, ‘What is a 504 Plan?’ Yes, sadly it’s been quite a few years since my last Special Education course at Waldorf College. I’m familiar with IEP’s [Individualized Education Programs] that offer specialized instruction to students with disabilities. But 504 Plans? I had no idea.

I looked up 504 Plans, then looked up differences between 504’s and IEP’s. Then I consulted my students’ plans; currently I have four students with 504’s.

What I learned about 504 Plans is that instead of changing instruction or creating specialized instruction as you would do for an IEP, a 504 Plan is an accommodation(s).


For example:

  • My student with ADHD and anxiety needs extended deadlines on assignments, more time to read and complete tests/quizzes/readings, and paper copies of all assignments.
  • Another student with a 504 needs paper copies of all assignments, multiple explanations of assignments/projects, and extended time on major tests.

So, how do you accommodate for these learner differences?

  1. The first thing is to familiarize yourself with the student’s plan. Talk to the counselor, student’s advisor, or special education teachers who work with the student and can explain the condition/accommodations needed in the classroom.
  2. Then talk to the student. [I didn’t receive note of my students’ 504 Plans until the second week of school. At that point, I pulled each student aside and asked if they needed to be moved somewhere else in the room, if they were feeling overwhelmed with assignments/projects, or if they had questions]. Be clear that you want to help them, but also make sure the student knows it is his/her responsibility to stay on top of assignments and self-advocate, especially if he/she feels that he needs more time or additional modifications to classroom deadlines, etc.
  3. Then, be aware. Make sure to spend extra time with that student, while ensuring that you are not singling him or her out. Have checkpoints throughout instruction to see where the student is and be sure to meet with him/her outside of class if needed. Keep updated on the Plans and any changes. Then support and encourage the student, but don’t baby him/her! Give support, but also push the student, as much as possible, to keep up with the rest of the class. Don’t allow the 504 Plan to hold your student back when he/she is able to move forward. Remember, this student is just as capable as any other student in your class! He/she just needs a few learner accommodations.

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