Dear Addy: Back to School

Dear Addy,

With school back in session, I want to make sure that my son’s needs as someone with a bleeding disorder are accounted for at school. I have heard of 504 plans – what does this entail? What steps can I take to ensure that my son receives reasonable accommodations at school?


Caring Carrier

Dear Caring Carrier,

Good question! Accommodations for students with disabilities are crucial in levelling the playing field and addressing both academic and non-academic needs as a student.

A 504 plan is a legal document designed to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to education. It is named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. Unlike Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), 504 plans are not tailored for students who require specialized instruction. Instead, they focus on providing reasonable accommodations and modifications to support a student’s participation in general education.

The 504 plan will outline specific accommodations and support services a student with a disability, such as a bleeding disorder, will receive to ensure equal access to education. Accommodations can include, but are not limited to, extended time for assessments, flexibility with attendance, and flexible seating arrangements. It is important to note that a 504 plan provides accommodations to a student’s environment, not the course curriculum.

On the other hand, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a comprehensive document developed for students with disabilities who do require specialized instruction and related services. IEPs are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that ensures students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education. IEPs are highly individualized, focusing on the unique needs of each student to facilitate academic success and social development. To qualify for an IEP, a student must have a disability that adversely affects educational performance and requires special education services. IEPs may include a range of services, such as specialized instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and other accommodations necessary for the student’s academic success. The IEP is developed collaboratively by a team that typically includes parents, teachers, special education professionals, and sometimes the student. This team works together to assess the student’s needs, set goals, and determine the appropriate services. IEPs are reviewed and updated at least annually.

Finally, an Individualized Health Plan (IHP) is a plan developed to address the specific health needs of a student who has health conditions that may require accommodations or medical interventions during the school day. Unlike the 504 plan and IEP, which primarily focus on educational needs, an IHP is centered around health-related considerations. An IHP may include information on medications, dietary restrictions, emergency procedures, and any other health-related information that is essential for the well-being of the individual in a school setting.

To obtain a 504 plan, IEP, or IHP, it is very important to identify your child’s needs, gather proper documentation, and submit a formal, written request to your child’s school district. If applicable, the social worker at your HTC and school counselors can be an excellent resource in walking you through the necessary steps to obtain a 504 plan, IEP, or IHP. To determine if an IEP or 504 plan is best for you, please refer to this flow chart.



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