My child has special needs and may qualify for services at school. What is the difference between a Section 504 Plan and an Individualized Education Plan or IEP?
Put simply, a 504 is a plan addresses the needs of children with disabilities who are able to remain in the general education classroom but may need some additional support for learning disabilities, attention issues, or special considerations for medical conditions. A 504 Plan will spell out exactly what the student needs to be safe, healthy, and successful in the classroom. For kids with medical conditions, this could include things like access to a peanut-free classroom or a schedule for checking insulin in the nurse’s office. For kids with learning and attention issues, a 504 Plan may identify simple supports like preferential seating near the blackboard or larger print on worksheets. Generally speaking, a 504 Plan does not include goals and measurable objectives for progress, but rather supports and accommodations that can be implemented in a general education setting to help a child with a disability be successful. A 504 plan plan exists to ensure kids with disabilities can access the learning environment and be successful without the need for pull-out services with a special education teacher.
An Individualized Education Plan or IEP is similar to a 504 Plan in that it lays out accommodations and modifications for kids with disabilities. The main difference between the two is that kids who qualify for an IEP also need specialized instruction that takes place with a special education teacher (often in the “resource” room) and progress for goals and objectives is monitored and measurable. Further, to qualify for an IEP, the disability must have educational impact and prevent a child from accessing the curriculum. To be eligible for an IEP, a parent must sign consent to a psycho-educational evaluation which will be performed by a school psychologist. A child may also receive a speech evaluation and a motor skills evaluation depending on his or her needs. The child must have an up-to-date hearing and vision form on file before the evaluation begins.
Here is a great article that gives more detail on the differences between Section 504 Plans and IEPs. If you suspect your child may be eligible for services provided by a Section 504 Plan or an IEP, make your request for evaluation in writing to your child’s general education teacher and the assistant principal. Click here to see a template for writing a letter requesting an evaluation for your child.