Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as 504 plans, offer children from K-12 appropriate educational accommodations and modifications based on the child’s learning and attentive needs. Although both are similar in their goals and end results, they differ quite differently in detail. An IEP is basically a blueprint for a child’s special education needs/experience at a certain school. A 504 Plan serves as a plan for how a child will have access to learning at a school. The IEP also provides individualized special education and associated services to meet unique needs and set standards of the child. On the other hand, the 504 Plan provides services and modifications to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students. Both of these services are free of charge, at no cost to the specific child and their parents. The IEP falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This is a federal special education law for children with disabilities. The 504 Plan falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under these protocols, there is a stop against discrimination of people with disabilities. Those who are eligible to get an IEP must be a child that has one or more of the thirteen specific disabilities listen in the IDEA and the disability must affect the child’s education performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum. Those who are eligible to get a 504 Plan must be a child that has any learning or attention issues/disabilities. The disability must also interfere with the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom (The 504 Plan incorporates a broader span of “disabilities” compared to those addressed under IDEA).
For an IEP, there are strictly at least five participants that must be involved. These include the child’s parent, at least one of the child’s general education teachers, at least one special education teacher, a school psychologist or specialist, and a school district representative with authority over special education services. The 504 Plan is created by a team of individuals who are familiar with the child and who are capable of understanding the evaluative data of the child and special service options. This could include the child’s parent, general and special education teachers, and even the school principal.
The IEP must be in the form of a written document and must include: the child’s current levels of academic and functional performance, annual education goals and how the child’s school will track their progress, the services the child will get, the timing of those services, any accommodations and modifications, how the child will participate in standardized tests, and how the child will be included in general education classes and school activities. The 504 Plan does not necessarily have to be in the form of a written document. It includes: specific accommodations, supports or services for the child, names of who will provide each service, and the name of the person responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented.
“IEP and 504 Plan Defined” (2013). University of Washington. DO-IT: Disabilities, Opportunities,
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Lee, Andrew . (2014). “IEPs and 504 Plans.” The Understood Team. UNDERSTOOD.ORG USA LLC.