What is a 504 Plan for anxiety? What accommodations might the plan include?
Title 34, Part 104 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the federal rules that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (CFR). First, let’s talk about the actual 504 plan itself. A 504 plan is codified in federal law. You can check out my other blogs. I have described what a 504 plan looks like and who’s eligible.
But in this topic, we’re specifically talking about a student with an anxiety disorder. If a student has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, there’s a wide array of anxiety or depression disorders. And any of them can qualify a student and make a student eligible for a 504 plan for anxiety if it substantially limits life activity. And by that, we mean their ability to function anywhere within the public or charter school setting.
Accommodations for students with anxiety disorders in the classroom may include:
- A transition plan to help the student move between classes, extracurricular activities, specials, PE, and lunch.
- A quiet, private space for the student to use during the school day if they need to take a break or de-stress.
- Modification of the student’s schedule to reduce the number of classes or activities they need to attend each day.
- Extra time for tests and assignments to allow the student to complete them without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.
- Use assistive technology, such as a text-to-speech app, to help students access and understand the material.
It is crucial for the 504 team to carefully consider the student’s needs and develop a plan that provides the appropriate accommodations. The plan should be clearly written and easy for substitute teachers and other staff to understand and implement.
How Do You Write a 504 Plan for Anxiety?
To write a 504 plan for a child with anxiety, you must work with their parents, teachers, and other educational professionals to identify the specific accommodations and support the child needs to access their education. Here are some steps you can follow to write a 504 plan form for a child with anxiety:
- Identify the child’s specific needs and how they affect their ability to access education. It might include difficulty participating in class discussions, avoiding certain activities or social situations, or completing assignments on time.
- Develop specific accommodations and support to address the child’s needs. These might include providing a quiet space for the child to take breaks, allowing extra time to complete assignments, or providing a visual schedule to help them manage their anxiety.
- Involve the child and their parents in the development of the 504 plan. It can help ensure that the plan reflects the child’s needs and preferences and that the child and their parents are invested in making the plan work.
- Monitor the child’s progress and adjust the plan as needed. The team should review the 504 plan regularly to ensure that it meets the child’s needs and that they make any necessary adjustments.
It is important to remember that every child is different, and the specific accommodations and support included in a 504 plan will vary depending on the child’s individual needs. For instance, a 504 plan for a student with depression may have different accommodations.
Also, poorly written 504 accommodations for anxiety and ADHD may say that the student gets extra time on exams or assignments. But how much extra time? When does it start? Is it double the time? Is it triple the time? When does it end? Can that student be working on that exam all day long? That can be a little confusing, so it’s essential to know and be able to interpret the accommodations for anybody.
If they pick up that 504 plan, they can read it, and they know exactly what that student gets. It’s also best for the student because it shows consistency and continuity within the school environment. Broad or vague accommodations are hard to interpret. If one person looks at it, they may interpret it one way; if another person looks at it, there could be other interpretations. You want to stay away from that.
So again, extra time is great, but let’s be more specific. So, is it double the time of the other students? Is it an hour or two hours? That would be better and easier for everybody to follow. And it’s better for the student because they know what to expect exactly. They won’t get a substitute one day that says they can sit and work on their assignment all day. And then when the teacher returns, they say, no, you only get one hour. That can be confusing, especially for a student with an anxiety disorder. That can be very stressful and harmful to their mental health.
The plan aims to give the child the support they need to access their education and succeed in school. For a more comprehensive understanding, one might also explore resources from The American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the U.S. Department of Education, and Understood, which provide excellent guidance on these topics.
504 Plan Accommodations For Anxiety
Sample 504 plan for depression and anxiety in high school and 504 accommodations for anxiety in middle school are specific modifications or support to help a child with a disability access their education. Some possible accommodations for a child with anxiety might include the following:
- Allowing the child to take breaks in a quiet, calm space when they are feeling anxious
- Providing the child with extra time to complete assignments or tests
- Providing the child with a visual schedule to help them manage their anxiety
- Allowing the child to have a preferred seating arrangement in the classroom
- Allowing the child to use anxiety-reducing tools, such as fidget toys or stress balls, during class
- Providing the child with positive reinforcement or rewards for managing their anxiety
- Working with the child to develop relaxation techniques or strategies for managing anxiety
It is important to remember that every child is different, and the specific accommodations appropriate for a child with anxiety will depend on their individual needs and preferences. The goal of the accommodations is to provide the child with the support they need to access their education and succeed in school.
Let’s talk about some reasonable accommodations within a classroom setting. The first one I will talk about is cool-down passes. If a child is becoming very agitated or in a stressful state, potentially on the verge of a panic attack, they should be able to give a cool-down pass so they can go. And notify the teacher without disrupting the class, so handing them a slip of paper. I’ve also seen that sometimes they give specific hand signals like a thumbs up or a number two or a three, something like that, to the teacher to clue the teacher in without disrupting the class that they need to leave so that they can cool down somewhere.
And it should also be written where they would go and how long they could stay there or some parameters, like until they can calm themselves down. That is one of the most common. Again, the teacher needs to know what the signal is, and it needs to be in writing. So, if there’s a substitute, they understand that the student includes them, that they can go down and have a pass to cool down and return whenever they feel comfortable.
Then, always keeping the child in school. Even if they feel stressed and anxious, the child should be kept in the classroom as much as possible. In the previous recommendation, I did say that they would leave. But that’s if they get to that level. Having the student out of the classroom shouldn’t be the goal. It should be to have them in as much as possible, and no one should be able to remove them unless it reaches that level.
The next one is providing positive reinforcement. If a child can work through anxious symptoms, the teacher can positively reinforce that. What does that look like? Well, it depends on the child’s age. It could be a sticker chart where they get a prize or maybe more time with a teacher or a friend, more recess time, or something like that so that it’s positively reinforcing when they’re making good choices and helping to advocate for themselves in their behavior.
The next one, which we talked about before, is signaling the teacher. But it should be specified in the 504 plan what that signal will be. Will it be a piece of paper? Will it be a hand motion? Will it be saying a code word? It depends. It’s whatever the student would feel comfortable with because we don’t want to single them out because that will add more stress and anxiety. And it’s frankly no one else’s business. That way, as I said, it doesn’t add more stress to the student.
Verbal encouragement. It goes along with positive reinforcement. If the educator sees that the child is advocating for themselves and they’re self-regulating, verbal support would be great, letting them know they’re doing a great job. Now, for some students, this may cause more stress. It is only for some. There’s no one-size-fits-all with accommodations in a 504 plan for anxiety. It’s tailored to that student to meet their needs, and no two students are alike.
So, keep that in mind whenever you suggest or write accommodations. The next one is to allow breaks as necessary or offer breaks. If the child is working on a difficult assignment, it may be written for an accommodation that the teacher must offer a break. So, they can take a five-minute break, come back, and keep working. Or if the teacher knows some behavioral clue is showing frustration, exhaustion, or something like that, then the teacher can offer a break. And again, it’s best to be specific. I like this one; avoid jokes, using sarcasm, or any unwanted attention from that student.
Again, they may have social anxiety, so if a teacher constantly jokes about the student or anything that has to do with the student, that will not be good for them. It’s not productive. So, one can also include that one. It identifies adults or staff with whom the student can seek help whenever they feel anxious. Sometimes these are written on a crisis plan as well. But if the student feels like they’re on the verge of a panic attack or their stress or anxiety level is very high, it’s nice to have someone in the school to whom they can go.
So, they use that secret code to the teacher, are allowed to leave, and could go to that adult within the school who could help regulate it. If you’re going to do that, I recommend that a second person is available because sometimes, people are busy within the school. So, it’s good for the student to know a secondary person to go to if needed.
Another one is a buddy system. If the student has a sibling within the school or has a good friend with whom they have a great relationship and feel calm and supported, the buddy system might be an excellent accommodation.
This buddy system can also be included in transitions outside the classroom, walking to the cafeteria, at recess, or they may be able to sit by that person in the classroom. So, even if the seating chart changes, they stay by that buddy because it’s calming and helps them regulate their emotions. Fears of rejection can be another trigger for students with anxiety disorders. Suppose there’s a way to write an accommodation to remove that. Let’s talk about the two captains picking teams in the physical education classroom that may cause extreme anxiety to someone with an anxiety disorder. If we can remove that or anything where the teacher will pick sure students, that student with a 504 would feel rejected. If we can remove that scenario, one can write that into accommodation.
Extra time and warnings. It is one we had talked about before. How much spare time or warnings? Whenever the class is going to be transitioning, maybe leaving to go to recess or the cafeteria, sometimes it’s excellent, and it helps the student if they receive a heads-up. So, five minutes until this assignment is done, five minutes until we’re transitioning to lunch and leaving to go to the cafeteria. One can write that in accommodation.
And then preferred seating. I had mentioned this also when we were talking about the buddy system. But if a person gets along well with the student at the 504, they are very calming, or they are familiar with the student’s diagnosis, it may be significant that that student gets to sit there.
Now, with preferred seating, that student could sit at the front or back of the class. Or by the door, bathroom, or wherever they feel most relaxed and not anxious, so it will not disrupt them throughout their day. So, the preferred seating is an easy one. You write in where the student would like to sit, and the teacher agrees, and then that will not change. Also, we can talk about accommodations surrounding homework and tests. This one, extended time on a test, we discussed that. They are clearly stating objectives.
It’s hard sometimes with students with anxiety or depression or those types of disorders. They don’t know what the teacher wants. So, if it’s written down and the expectations are clear, it can help a person with anxiety disorders. Also, oral reports could be prohibited. Students with social anxiety probably do not want to stand up in front of the class and present an oral report. So, maybe find a different way; can they tape it and then show it to the class, or can it be in writing?
Those would be other accommodations. Not requiring the student to speak out loud, so you wouldn’t call on that student. And one would know that if that student raises their hand, they’re ready to participate and feel comfortable with it. If not, do not call on them.
Word banks. Instead of giving them a prompt so they’re not stressed out, coming up with words when they’re already super anxious, word banks, or some key or something like that to help with assignments would be one. You can also give the students prompts or break up the material if it’s too overwhelming. Just give them portions of the task at one time.
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Again, I’ve given you a massive list of accommodations for anxiety, but the thing to remember, and as I said in this blog, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Every student is unique. So, assessing their needs and getting creative with those accommodations is essential. And, be very clear, so it’s not open to interpretation—anybody who picks up that 504 plan will know precisely how to interpret it.
Let us know if you would like a sample 504 plan for anxiety high school or 504 accommodations for anxiety pdf!
Is Anxiety a 504 or IEP?
Whether anxiety is considered a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) depends on the severity of the anxiety and how it affects the student’s ability to access and succeed in the classroom. If the anxiety is severe and significantly impacts their ability to access the curriculum or participate in school activities, they may be eligible for an IEP. An IEP is a more individualized and legally binding document with specific goals and more detailed accommodations and support than a 504 plan.
What Are 504 Accommodations for Anxiety?
Accommodations for anxiety under a 504 plan may include the following:
● Extra time on tests and assignments,
● Modified homework assignments,
● Access to assistive technology,
● The use of relaxation techniques or anxiety-reducing strategies during tests or class activities,
● The ability to take breaks during tests or class activities,
● The use of a quiet, distraction-reduced testing environment, and
● Access to a counselor or other support to help with managing anxiety.
These accommodations are individualized to meet the unique needs of each student with anxiety.
How Do You Write a 504 Plan for Anxiety?
To write a 504 plan for anxiety, convene a meeting with the student’s parents and relevant school staff to review the student’s medical and educational records and determine the specific accommodations and support the student needs to address their anxiety.
The 504 plan should include the following:
● Description of the student’s anxiety and its impact on their ability to access and succeed in the classroom,
● The specific accommodations and support needed,
● Goals and objectives for the plan,
● A plan for monitoring and evaluating effectiveness,
● The names and roles of school staff responsible for implementation, and
● The name of the student’s 504 coordinator.
The plan should be reviewed and updated regularly, involving the student and their parents.
Jennifer Hanson is a dedicated and seasoned writer specializing in the field of special education. With a passion for advocating for the rights and needs of children with diverse learning abilities, Jennifer uses her pen to educate, inspire, and empower both educators and parents alike.