A meeting will be held to decide whether your child qualifies for and IEP or a 504 Plan.
What is the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP?
The basic difference between an IEP and a 504 plan can be summed up in one sentence: both plans provide for accommodations, but only an IEP provides for specialized instruction for students in grades K–12, while a 504 plan can serve students at both the K–12 and college levels.
A 504 plan is covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a federal civil rights law that ensures an individual cannot be discriminated against due to their disability. These plans provide support and accommodations but do not include goals and objectives. 504 plans are reviewed periodically based on need.
There is no requirement for what is included in a 504 plan; however, schools create personalized accommodations to address the needs of a child based on their disability. Accommodations can include assistive technology, preferential seating, getting a written list of instructions, receiving class notes prior to the lesson, and larger text, among many others.
Section 504 broadly defines someone who qualifies for a 504 plan as an “individual with a disability… which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.”
A list of disabilities is not identified. A child found ineligible for an IEP may qualify for a 504 Plan if disability interferes with the child's ability to learn in general education class, and impacts major life activities, like walking, caring for oneself, etc.
An IEP falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal act ensures access to special education and related services for eligible children with disabilities. An IEP is a working document that allows for necessary accommodations, and a student is also able to receive specially designed instruction with an IEP, meaning they get tailored instruction unique to them based on their disability, goals, and objectives. These goals are addressed by a special education teacher in the student’s least restrictive environment (LRE) to help the student make progress in areas affected by their disability.
An IEP must contain information about the child and the specific and unique educational program designed to meet their needs. The document includes the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP), which describes how the disability impacts the child’s involvement in the general education curriculum. Based on the PLAAFP, IDEA also requires the following IEP components:
Measurable annual goals
Special education, related services, and supplemental aids and services
The first step in qualifying for an IEP is a comprehensive evaluation to see if the child has a disability and if the disability has an adverse effect on their educational progress. Our blog post includes information about what parents can expect at an initial IEP eligibility meeting.
In accordance with IDEA, there are 13 categories for which students qualify to receive free and appropriate education (FAPE) in special education:
Orthopedic Impairment (OI)
Other Health Impairment (OHI)
Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
Speech or Language Impairment (SLI)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Visual Impairment (VI)
IEPs are valid for students in grades K–12 but are no longer valid once a student earns their high school diploma. A legally binding document, each IEP provides a written plan for intervention and specialized instruction in deficit areas affected by a student’s disability.