Is a Medical Diagnosis Required for a 504 Plan?

by | Aug 17, 2023

What is a 504 Plan?

Before we begin discussing if a medical diagnosis is required for a 504 plan, let’s first define a 504 plan. defines a 504 plan as:

“Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.

So what does this mean for students then? Well students that qualify for a 504 plan, will receive accommodations in a classroom environment. The idea of the plan is the student is still in class with peers but receives accommodations that assist with them in the classroom setting.

What Are the 504 Plan Qualifications?

The 504 plan is put in place for students with several different diagnoses that affect learning. This includes:

  • Attention and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing Issues or Deafness
  • Vision Impairment
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

This is just a brief list of diagnoses that can be evaluated to become qualified for a 504 plan. Each qualification looks into a variety of factors that we’ll later discuss in detail.

504 Vs. Special Education

A 504 plan is not apart of the special education program. A special education program, also known as an IEP is an individualized education program. This means the student is not in a traditional classroom environment and is in a separate classroom with different teachers. A 504 plan keeps the student in the classroom with their peers and instead opts to breakdown barriers within that classroom for the student. This allows the classroom to become more accessible for the student. Ultimately an IEP program is for students who need a more customized environment for their learning.

Is a Medical Diagnosis Required for a 504 Plan?

Yes, a diagnosis must be verified by the school to see that the student does indeed require special accommodations. This is a formal evaluation done by the school with each school and district having a different 504 evaluation policy. Schools will also factor in other information into the evaluation that include teacher recommendations, test scores, and grades.

The diagnosis is much broader than an IEP, so the team will look at a variety of factors relating to the student’s academic day. Teachers may be brought in as part of this process to give their valuable input as to what they think would help the student.

Types of Accommodations

While the 504 plan may not be as specialized as the IEP, it is still able to give various different types of accommodations. These accommodations are evaluated based on the medical diagnosis required for a 504 plan.

This could be things like:

  • Extra time on tests
  • Seating at the front of the classroom
  • Tests read aloud
  • Extra time on assignments
  • Extended deadlines
  • Modified textbooks (read loud)

IEP or 504 Plan?

While the process for a 504 plan involves a team assisting with the development of accommodations, an IEP is a more formal process. The individualized education goals that are present with creating an IEP require more planning and in general is a longer process. This is because the environment and purpose of an IEP is for more individualized cases with the student learning experience at school rather than accommodating the student like in the 504 plan.

Another point to highlight about an IEP is the additional services provided. Most 504 plans don’t account for the inclusion of outside services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. These services are more ingrained in the IEP for the student during the evaluation process. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the student of a 504 plan won’t be using these services. It just means that the school day does not account for these services during that time. Many students with 504 plans and accommodations can meet with these professionals outside of school hours.

How to Apply for a 504 Plan

The first and most important step is to collect documentation on your child’s legal disability. This is a requirement as part of a 504 plan. It’s also important to have on hand the student’s standardized test scores and report cards. These items are important as they will be needed by the team to assess and develop the student’s plan.

The second step is to meet with the school’s 504 coordinator. This is a representative in charge of the 504 plan evaluation. It’s common that this individual is also the one in charge of IEP coordination as well. It’s best to check with the school administrative staff for the right person’s contact information. This will be your primary point of contact for the 504 team.

The third step is to write a formal request to the person in charge of 504 accommodations. In this request, be sure to list all legal disabilities your student has, teacher/private recommendations, test scores, and report cards.

Once this request is approved the school will contact you about developing a 504 plan for your student. If the request is not approved the school must list the reasons why they did not approve it. If you disagree with their decision you can ask for a due process hearing.

It’s Different For Each School and District

Each school and district has a different way they process requests for 504 plans. It’s important to call the school for more specific information as they’ll have the right answers for each step. The article was aimed more to provide you with a generalized idea of what the process looks like. It’s important to obtain a medical diagnosis for a 504 plan prior to applying as it’s one of the main barriers of approval when submitting your request. Only public schools are required by law to allow the full range of 504 accommodations. Private schools do have to provide some accommodations, but since they are not federally funded, they are not required to make extensive accommodations. This is something to check with the private school about if looking or already attending.

Recent Articles

What Looks Good on College Applications?

  For many high schoolers, college applications seem stressful. It is a student's chance to stand out from the competition when applying to a university. Depending on how the application is completed, it will even determine admittance or not. I am going to...

Is Computer Science Considered STEM?

What Is STEM? Before we talk about computer science we first need to discuss what STEM exactly is. STEM is an acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is a very general term that encompasses many different fields of study under one...

Does Having Anxiety Mean You Are Neurodivergent?

Whether we like it or not, anxiety is apart of our lives. It plays an important role in motivating our mental state into accomplishing tasks or items that would otherwise be difficult for us. It can also push us to explore new opportunities. A new term has erupted...

Is Psychology a Social Science?

  Social sciences are a large part of the academic sphere. It includes many different types of sciences and is a great field to look into. Many universities have a dedicated college to social science. Because of this, social sciences are one of the largest fields...

What is a Dual Enrollment Class?

  High school for many students is overwhelming when it comes to the choices in classes for students. It's the first time where you can fill your schedule up with classes that you wish to take. While perusing the class list, I'm sure you have noticed the dual...

Help Your Teen Deal With Stress | 4 Relieving Tips

 High school is a time of high stress and anxiety for many teenagers. This is a time where they navigate academic challenges, social pressures, and the uncertainty of their future. The stress they accumulate during these formative years can have a significant impact...