Compare an IEP and a 504 plan

If your child has a 504 Plan, then you have already connected with the Special Education Department.

As you think about transition, think about how well the 504 accommodations are helping your child prepare for life after school.

How is an IEP different from a 504 plan?

  • A 504 plan involves adjusting the regular class conditions, but an IEP describes specialized instruction or services. Often the student who has an IEP comes out of class to work with a learning specialist or therapist of some kind. In high school, this can include special classes to learn better study skills, or prepare for getting a job.

  • An IEP provides more support, including specialized instruction, and more in-depth transition planning. For example:

    • Job training classes

    • Formal transition planning, sometimes with a transition coordinator

    • Internships and supported employment during high school

  • There are different requirements to qualify for an IEP. A student must have a disability that affects their progress in school, and they must need specialized instruction in order to make effective progress.
  • An IEP is a legal document that guarantees services according to federal law, IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A 504 plan offers accommodations (rather than services) to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

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An IEP is an Individualized Education Program.

It's a legal contract between you and the school that describes specialized instruction and support that the school will give your child.

This includes Transition Planning: how to prepare your child for working, learning and living as an adult.

Background:

There is a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This gives children with disabilities the right to an education that meets their unique needs. So if a child needs special help in order to learn at school, the school system has to give them extra services.

An Individualized Education Program, or IEP, is a document that describes these extra services under IDEA that the school agrees to give your child to help them meet their educational needs.

These services may be called Special Education services or Exceptional Student Services (ESS).

How it works:

You the parent, and the rest of the IEP Team work together to define your child's goals and develop a unique plan to help address and achieve these goals.

What kinds of services might be in the IEP?

  • Extra learning help from a special educator

  • Therapies like speech, or occupational therapy (OT) to help your child with specific skills

  • Study skills and job-readiness training

  • Transition services to help them prepare for their goals for adult life

Sources: LA DOE, Louisiana Workforce Commission

Some students can succeed in school without the special services from an IEP, but they still need some kind of support service or accommodation.

504 plans describe accommodations to help the student in the classroom. These are usually small changes that help the child follow the normal curriculum.

How is a 504 Plan different from an IEP?

  • A 504 Plan involves adjusting the regular class conditions, but an IEP describes specialized instruction or services. Often the student comes out of class to work with a learning specialist or therapist of some kind. In high school, this can include special classes to learn better study skills or prepare for getting a job.

  • An IEP provides more support for transition planning. This includes a transition coordinator, job training classes, internships and supported employment during high school.

The 504 Plan gets its name from Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act law.

504 accommodations might include:

  • Support in non-academic and after school activities

  • Adaptive equipment

  • Assistive technology devices

  • An aide (classroom helper)

  • Help with health needs

  • Extra time for taking tests

Click here for a 504 accommodations checklist and to see examples of what could be included in a 504 plan. (It will open in a new tab or window on your screen.)

Sources: Federation for Children with Special Needs, Casey Family Programs

To qualify for special education services and an IEP in Massachusetts, all of the following criteria must be met: 1. The student must have one of the following disabilities: autism, developmental delay, intellectual delay, sensory disability such as deafness (hearing), blindness (vision), or both, neurological, emotional, communication, speech, physical, specific learning, or health-related disorder. 2. The student is not making effective progress in school. 3. The lack of progress is a result of the student's disability. 4. The student needs specially designed instruction in order to make effective progress in school (this would be outlined in an IEP). If the student just needs accomodations in order to follow the general curriculum, they do not qualify but can get help from a 504 plan.

To see the definitions of each type of disability, click here: Disability Definitions. (It will open in a new tab or window on your screen.)

 

The evaluation and eligibility meeting will help decide if your child meets these criteria. If so, they'll qualify for special education services. Depending on what kind of support they need, the school will work with you to create either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

 

We will tell you more about these!

Sources: MA DOE, Federation for Children with Special Needs

 

Sources:  Mass DOE, Federation for Children with Special Needs, Casey Family Programs, IDEA 

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