Many parents, and sometimes educators confuse 504 plans with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Both of these documents support children in the school setting but they do vastly different things.
Here are the 6 MAJOR differences at a glance.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) - Addresses Academic Learning and Needs
- The IEP is developed for children who meet eligibility criteria in one or more of the disability categories and are in need of specially designed instruction.
- The IEP is a school based document that addresses curriculum needs and supports.
- The IEP can significantly change academic content and amount of learning upon which your child will be assessed.
- The IEP can and may significantly change the location of where the instruction takes place.
- The IEP can and may include other support services (OT, PT and behavior support) beyond academic needs.
- Accountability for the IEP is held through school based processes.
504 Plan - Addresses Access to what is offered in school.
- The 504 Plan does not require a medical diagnosis. It does require a determination of impairment with substantial limitation to one or more major life activities.
- The 504 Plan is based on Civil Rights Law providing equitable access to all opportunities in the school setting. Equal access under the law.
- The 504 Plan can not change academic content, what is assessed, the location of instruction or the expected learning outcome.
- The 504 Plan may change the amount of work that is required to demonstrate proficiency.
- The 504 Plan does not provide additional support services (OT, PT). However, behavior support should still be included if necessary.
- Accountability for a 504 Plan is filed through the Office of Civil Rights.
Let’s look at each of these differences in more detail.
The IEP is a school based document that develops unique learning goals and outcomes that are specific to your child’s needs. It clearly outlines how that learning will be measured and communicated to you. It dictates where, through what instructional modalities, and how much a child will be expected to learn.
The IEP can also include the services of therapists (Speech, OT, PT) as your child’s needs dictate. These support services can range from consultative to a full time learning environment in a separate setting or in some cases a different school than the school a non-disabled peer would attend.
The IEP is developed annually allowing for the increase, decrease or elimination of services completely. Parents must be included on the team that makes and agrees to all aspects of the IEP.
The IEP, in a nutshell, can change what, where and how learning takes place. It is a powerful educational construct that can modify a child’s learning goals significantly.
The 504 Plan is, in essence, a Civil Rights Document whose failure to deliver is handled through the Office of Civil Rights.
The 504 Plan is a document that ensures your child’s civil rights to access all opportunities in the school setting. It does not change, modify or eliminate the standard learning outcomes for a child.
The 504 Plan covers all facets of school life including extracurricular activities and sports.
The 504 Plan is developed annually based on need by persons knowledgeable about the student but does not have to include parents.