Why NOT obtaining Section 504 for your child is a DISSERVICE to your child...
... a disservice to YOU, YOUR SCHOOL, and, above all else, YOUR CHILD.
Having just been through the process of obtaining a Section 504 Designation for my 5th grade daughter, I have developed very strong opinions about why this designation is vital for my child. In retrospect, I wish I had requested this protection for my child before she started kindergarten. And I have learned that having NOT requested the Designation upfront created a different set of problems that I had to inevitably address.
I hope this thread will address the fears of parents who are considering whether or not to go the "504 path". I hope that parents will share their experiences in order to help other parents who are wrestling with whether or not to pursue a Section 504 Designation for their child... or those parents who are beginning the 504 Designation process... to help them better understand that a 504 designation might not be easy, but it is not to be feared.
I came to my school district with the idea that 504 was a confrontational process, and this was confirmed by my conversations with my School District. So I waited six years to request this protection to avoid this (for us, inevitable) confrontation. This was a mistake and my child ultimately suffered because of it.
I hope others will chime in to help explain the beauty and service of a Section 504 Designation for our children. It might be helpful to write our testimonials in a consistent format if possible. I will write my comments in the format of my mistaken "myth" about 504, and why/how the reality of 504 better serves my child.
I try to add to this over time, as I hope others will too. Please add your experience if you also bought into a myth that has already been stated. And please also add to the myth(s) you experienced.
[b]Myth #1: Requesting a Section 504 will label me as a "difficult parent" and the School District won't want to work with me. [/b]
I found the opposite to be true. Having the 504 Designation made it clear to everyone why the school district needed to address accommodations. It provided the correct motivation for the school to proactively address accommodations and removed the onus of responsibility from me (parent) to the school district. By squarely defining the school district's accountability, it [i]liberated me [/i]from the my repeated requests to the SD. When the responsibility was mine to identify and advocating for specific accommodations, I felt like a "pest" and I was much [i]more [/i] llikely to be labeled "difficult". Now that the SD has acknowledged that their student has a legal right for protections, they take more responsibility to identify and address accommodations. I am viewed from a completely different light.
I realized rather late that by not having the Section 504 Designation, I also was left to negotiate with other parents directly. Before the SD understood that 'related services' applied to ALL activities, they directed me to coordinate activities with the other parent volunteers. This will always put you/me in the terribly awkward position of negotiating with other parents. THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE, and I find it impossible for a parent to not to have some sort of negative fall out by having been placed in this erroneous position.
A Section 504 Designation allows a parent to foster healthy interactions with other parents and staff. You become the "supportive, cooperative" parent that assists other parents in implementing [i]the School District's accommodations[/i].
[b]Myth #2: It is better if the school staff find me to be cooperative and likeable. It's better to avoid conflict with staff because if the staff doesn't like me, my child may not be treated as well by the staff.[/b]
Again, I fund the opposite to be true. Sorta. I think it is important to cooperate with staff. But what happened was that by not having the 504 Designation, I was placed in the incorrect position of directly [i]negotiating[/i] with school staff and parents. This is just a losing position for any parent to be in.
The better and appropriate position is for the SD to acknowledge to its staff that this child is legally entitled to accommodations, and that these are not directly negotiated between school staff and the parent, or parent/parent. They are accommodations are created by a "504 Team", are implemented and enforced by the school administration. It removes you from on-going negotiations directly with your teacher/principal, and again liberates you to a more appropriate role of supporting the teacher/school/parents in [i]the School District's accommodations [/i]for your child.
[b]Myth #3: My School (School District) is cooperating with me and I have the accommodations that I want. A 504 is not necessary.[/b]
Again, I found this not to be true. My school staff cooperated and had a very good IHP in place. I always felt the uncomfortable strain that they "were doing so much already" and that I somehow didn't appreciate this because I was asking them to address other new accommodations as they became apparent. I always felt beholden for the attention and the good accommodations that I had negotiated with them to provide. They seemed to want to create an IHP and then they "were done".
The 504 Designation maintains the School District's [i]accountability[/i] to proactively create the accommodations. This accountability and ownership is necessary for you to have a good, healthy relationship with your school community.