School Vocabulary 504 plan
A 504 is actually Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 504 is a civil rights law to protect people with disabilities from discrimination because of their disability. There should be a 504 coordinator (usually a vise principal or counselor, but probably not the special education teacher) and a team like the IEP team to help with the accommodations.
Notice that a 504 is not something that guarantees your kid will have an IEP. This is separate. A 504 is basic accommodations to help override an impairment so your child can have the same public education as everyone else….this is not an individualized plan for educational learning…in other words, this is not to accommodate mental or emotional disabilities that effect learning, but accommodations for physical surroundings. For example: your child is partially deaf in their left ear. They can have a 504 plan that states they need to sit in a certain spot in the classroom. That’s it. The kid then has to perform up to the teacher’s standards and receive the grades they EARNED like everyone else.
I have children with each plan. My son with Asperger’s has an IEP, and my daughter with brittle bones has a 504, of which will follow them to college if need be. They both have an adapted day at school with special services. Both plans look and work very similar, but the legal paperwork is slightly different.
In most states, there are programs for children ages 0-3 where you can begin therapies (First Steps, Early Intervention, etc.). You can ask about these at your County Health Department. Starting at age 3, most school districts have an Early Childhood Program you can begin the legal IEP/504 process with to receive therapy and additional help in a half day pre-school class. Start as early as you can to find services! Many times the people at the County Health Department, and at the school district, know of other organizations you can utilize as well if you need adaptive equipment in your home.
Always remember that you are never alone. I know it feels like it, and your chest can hurt with the pain, but the reality is that there are many people who can, and want to, help if you ask. We can find a way together!