Children with a medical diagnosis that affects a major life function may find help within a 504 plan with the St. Joseph School District.

Schools can offer 504 plans, named for section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, that guarantee accommodations be put in place in order for a child to access the general curriculum with fewer obstacles. These accommodations can take different forms, depending on the child.

“A student who might get overwhelmed about completing multiple essay questions, there may be several ways they can approach it,” said Michele Thomason, the director of special programs for the St. Joseph School District. “One support may be them typing it into a computer. Or if it’s multiple questions that need to be handwritten, instead of putting a page of questions in front of a child, you could do one at a time so they don’t get overwhelmed.”

Children with sensory differences may use sound-canceling earmuffs to allow them to function in louder environments.

“We look at each child individually,” Thomason said. “Our goal is to always make sure that we’re providing the services a child needs to be successful in their very least-restrictive environment."

She said counseling sessions also can be part of a 504 plan, as the counselor can provide lessons, support, self-regulation and coping skills, though these services also are available for students regularly.

Parents and teachers can recommend 504 plans, which can follow the children through to 12th grade in the St. Joseph School District. However, differentiated instruction strategies and universal accommodations oftentimes are enough to support student success outside of a 504 plan.

Daniel Cobb can be reached


Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowCobb.