A 504 Plan or an IEP: Which is right for me?

  504 Plan Individualized Education Program (IEP)

What is it?

A 504 plan is authorized by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a yearly, school specific accommodation plan created between a family and a school for a student with a diagnosed disability. It provides accommodations in the general education setting.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It mandates special education services (instruction, programs, related services like OT, counseling, PT) and accommodations for an eligible student. Services may be provided in any setting.

When is it appropriate?

When a student requires accommodations based on a doctor’s diagnosis.

When a student with a disability requires special education services, programs, and accommodations

Who is eligible?

Any student with the diagnosis of an impairment that limits one’s ability to participate in an important life activity/activities like learning, hearing, seeing, walking, speaking, concentrating, communicating, etc.

The disability can be temporary or permanent. Examples: Health, mobility, or physical conditions like allergies, asthma, diabetes, visual impairment etc.

Students who meet the criteria for one of 13 classifications of educational disability set by federal law: 

  • Autism
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Learning disability
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Deafness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Other health impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

What could be in it?

Examples of 504 Accommodations:

  • Extended testing time
  • Separate location for testing
  • Enlarged type or directions for tests read aloud
  • Scribe for testing
  • Use of typewriter for class notes or classwork
  • Preferential seating in class
  • Body breaks for focus, breaks for food or medication
  • A set time and location for taking medication
  • Use of elevator to travel throughout building

Components of IEP:

  • All accommodations that can be on a 504 can also be on an IEP
  • Information on the student's present levels of performance and special factors
  • Annual goals/benchmarks
  • Appropriate special education programs and services as per the Continuum of Special    
  • Education Services
  • Participation with students without disabilities
  • Details on participation in state/district assessments and promotion, 12 month services & transportation
  • Reporting progress
  • Transition services (for high school age students)

What are the steps?

  1. Family fills out 504 form using diagnostic or evaluation material from a doctor, psychologist, or other professional.
  2. Family meets with 504 coordinator/team where 504 request is approved or denied.
  3. Due process options available.
  1. Family makes a referral for evaluation.
  2. Evaluations are conducted.
  3. IEP meeting is held with the family.
  4. If student is eligible, IEP is developed.
  5. IEP is finalized and services are implemented.
  6. Due process options available

How long does it last? Can I renew it?

A 504 must be renewed yearly with the school  team for accommodations to continue from year to year. Parents should initiate meetings.

Federal and state regulations specify all steps in the special education process. Parents have the right to be informed and participate in all educational decisions and are strongly encouraged to participate.  Changes cannot be made to an IEP without informing parents and providing an opportunity to participate.

Learning and School, Special education
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