IEPs & 504 Plans

How to Get a 504 Plan or IEP in 12 Steps

You don’t have to be an educational consultant to request and secure academic accommodations for your child with ADHD or LD. Parents, follow these 12 steps down the road to a productive 504 Plan or IEP.

12 Steps to smarter school accommodations
12 Steps to smarter school accommodations
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12 Steps to Smarter School Accommodations

Overwhelmed and confused by the process for establishing an IEP or 504 Plan? Follow this step-by-step guide for securing accommodations for your child with ADHD or LD.

12 Steps to smarter school accommodations
12 Steps to smarter school accommodations
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Step 1: Document Warning Signs

If you notice your child's consistently struggling at school, start tracking the problems by:

  1. Filing away his tests and quizzes.
  2. Keeping copies of communication with teachers, doctors, and school staff.
  3. Starting a journal with notes on meetings with teachers or doctors.
  4. Logging your child's grades.
  5. Organizing it all in one big file.

If your child does need ADHD or LD accommodations, you'll have the paper trail to prove it.

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Step 2: Schedule a Teacher Meeting

Set a time to meet with the teacher to discuss your concerns. Bring questions, information, and samples of your child's work that demonstrate where he struggles.Teachers have insight into where your child has a hard time — organization, impulsivity, distractibility or comprehension. With your combined knowledge, you can devise a plan for tackling your child's challenges.

Pursue a diagnosis
Pursue a diagnosis
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Step 3: Pursue a Diagnosis

Though not required by law, a formal ADHD evaluation may increase your odd of securing the school accommodations your child needs. Make an appointment with your pediatrician to complete the following assessments:

  1. Behavioral History
  2. Medical History and Exam
  3. Review of Records

Then, ask for a letter with the doctor's diagnosis and any recommendations for accommodations.

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Step 4: Request a School Assessment

Send a letter to the head of special education and to your principal, requesting an evaluation. Include copies of your back-up documentation. Within 60 days, the school must complete the assessment and may call a parent conference. Before the assessment, you'll receive a plan, which outlines all the evaluations to be completed. You can request specific assessments if they're not in the plan.

Evaluate your options
Evaluate your options
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Step 5: Evaluate Your Options

After the assessment, your school will propose:

  • IEP: 10-12 pages, outlines special outside-the-classroom services and goals, falls under IDEA.
  • 504 Plan: 1-2 pages, outlines in-classroom services, and no goals. For kids who don't need an IEP, but still need help.

Teachers are required to follow both documents. Know the difference!

If you disagree with the school's assessment
If you disagree with the school’s assessment
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Step 6: If You Disagree With The School's Assessment

If you receive an assessment you don't agree with, stay calm and keep the school on your side. Ask for informal accommodations, extra help from teachers, and a copy of the assessment that explains the decision. You can also request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) to reassess your child and then fix any differences.

Prepare for your 504 meeting
Prepare for your 504 meeting
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Step 7: Prepare for Your IEP/504 Meeting

Before the IEP/504 meeting, create a profile of your child's strengths and weaknesses, and of what accommodations you think will help achieve your goals. Compile all of your supporting documents with copies to hand out. Make a checklist of what you want to discuss, and bring a pen to write comments. Consider bringing someone with you to take notes so you can talk without missing anything.

Research accommodations
Research accommodations
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Step 8: Research Accommodations

Accommodations vary based on each child's unique strengths and challenges. Use our list of proven accommodations to create a stockpile of ideas that might help your child in class, and at home. For example, if your child struggles with tests, suggest an accommodation that allows for extra time to finish. Bring one copy of your list for each person attending the IEP/504 meeting.

Draft IEP with the team
Draft IEP with the team
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Step 9: Draft IEP With The Team

At the IEP/504 meeting, be friendly and keep track of who attends. Review the school's accommodations, and suggest your own ideas. Don't sign the plan until you've reviewed it with any tutors or doctors. Make sure you agree with the accommodations and then try to resolve any disagreements in a follow-up meeting with the team. If you're not making progress, it might be time to bring in an education advocate.

Summarize conclusions
Summarize conclusions
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Step 10: Summarize the Conclusions

Before the IEP/504 meeting ends, sum up what you've talked about and what each person has agreed to do. It will let everyone know your expectations. After the meeting, send a thank you note to everyone who attended, and include a synopsis of the meeting. Then, touch base with teachers to make sure they received a copy of the IEP/504 plan.

Track progress against goals
Track progress against goals
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Step 11: Track Progress Against Goals

After working so hard to apply for and agree on accommodations, you'll want to make sure they stay on track. Stay involved at school to see how they're working, communicate often with teachers, and pay extra attention to homework. If you notice your child's performance slipping, call a meeting to tweak the plan.

Review and reassess
Review and reassess
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Step 12: Review and Reassess

IEPs include an annual review. You should prepare like you did for your original IEP/504 meeting. If your school isn't implementing your plan, you should talk to the teacher and then contact the school to explain and resolve your concerns. If the accommodations are still not followed, you'll need to request a mediation or due process hearing. An advocate or attorney can help you fight for your child's rights.