504 Plans and Mental Health

As a parent of a teen who is struggling with mental health difficulties it can be heartbreaking when you see the problems affecting their academic performance.  Often parents don’t know what to do or how to help.  Many parents that I speak to aren’t aware of their rights or that the school legally has to accommodate for mental health difficulties.  This process can be difficult without a knowledge of how the system works and my hope is that this article will provide some insight on what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  

What is a 504?

A 504 plan is a legal document created in the United States under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It is designed to provide educational accommodations and support to students with disabilities who do not qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The 504 plan outlines the accommodations, modifications, and services that will be provided to meet the specific needs of the student in a regular education setting, allowing them to fully participate in the academic environment. Examples of accommodations include extended time on tests, extra time to turn in homework assignments, a note taker, a pass to leave class if too anxious, a safe place on campus to go to calm down if needed, a modified day schedule, preferential seating, and access to assistive technology. 

Who Qualifies For a 504? 

A student with disabilities qualify for a 504 plan if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, or caring for oneself. This includes students with ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and other health conditions that affect their ability to access their education. To qualify for a 504 plan, a student must be evaluated by a school professional or medical doctor, and a team of school staff members, including the parents or guardians, must create an individualized plan that meets the student’s needs.

Is Mental Health a Disability That 504 Plans Cover?

While typically thought of in relation to physical disabilities or learning differences, a 504 plan can also be used to support students with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD. 

Here are a few ways a 504 plan can help your student with mental health issues:

  1. Access to Mental Health Services: Schools can provide access to mental health services, either through an on-site therapist or referral to an outside mental health professional. A 504 plan can ensure that your student has consistent access to mental health support.
  2. Accommodations for Classroom Learning: Mental health issues can impact a student’s ability to learn and engage in the classroom. A 504 plan can provide accommodations such as extended time on tests, preferential seating, or breaks as needed to help your student succeed academically.
  3. Absence or Tardy Policies: Students with mental health issues may need to miss school or arrive late due to therapy appointments, medication side effects, or other mental health-related reasons. A 504 plan can outline procedures for excused absences or tardies.
  4. Accommodations for Test-Taking: Students with mental health issues may experience test anxiety or have difficulty focusing during exams. A 504 plan can provide accommodations such as taking tests in a quiet and distraction-free environment or using a calculator for math tests.
  5. Communication Between School and Home: A 504 plan can require regular communication between school staff and parents or guardians to track progress and make adjustments as needed. This can help ensure that your student is receiving the support they need to manage their mental health and succeed in school.

Find The Support You and Your Child Need 

If you notice that your teen is struggling with mental health and it is affecting their academic performance or you just think they could use some extra support in their education, they might benefit from teen therapy, educational testing or a psychiatric evaluation. As a parent, you can’t solve all of your teens’ problems. At Campbell Teen & Family Therapy, Inc. we are experts in helping teens and their families. With our specialty on adolescents, we are competent at not just helping your teen with the difficult challenges they face, but also with helping parents know what to do, when to back off, when to draw the line and to just know they aren’t alone. Call now (408) 628-0532 to schedule an assessment to see if therapy is right for your teen.