Understanding the 504 & IEP Process

504/IEP So many Questions, So Little Time¦

When it comes to getting the right classroom accommodations for your child, there is a sea of information. It can be an intimidating and confusing process for parents.

If your child is struggling in the classroom, they may qualify for accommodations. Students with one of thirteen disabilities are eligible for an IEP, which is the more formal of the two. A student can qualify for a 504 plan if they have any disability that affects their ability to learn. 

One of the main differences is the way that each is developed. An IEP is constructed following a strict set of guidelines. To get an IEP, participants must meet two requirements. The first is that they must be formally diagnosed with one of the thirteen disabilities listed by IDEA. These disabilities range from dyslexia to traumatic brain injury. The second requirement is that the disability must affect the childs academic performance and their ability to learn in a traditional classroom setting.

A 504 plan was actually developed from section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act established in 1973. The Rehabilitation Act is a national law that ensures that an individual cannot be discriminated against because of a disability. It offers equal opportunity for those with disabilities to thrive in a classroom setting. To get a 504 plan for your student, they must have a disability. This can include attention or learning disabilities. The disability must impair the childs ability to learn in a conventional classroom setting, therefore accommodations are needed for a student to have a chance to be successful.

Another difference that stands out is the way that each is developed. An IEP is developed by a specific team that includes the parents, special education and general education teachers, a school psychologist, and a district representative. All members must be present during the development of the plan and at annual meetings. The plan must be approved by the parents, and cannot be modified without parental consent. The IEP team must review the plan annually and make modifications as needed.

A 504 plan is more loosely structured. In fact, it doesnt have to be in written form at all. It can simply be strategies and accommodations developed to increase success in the classroom. There are no specific guidelines. However, most 504 plans include what accommodations are being given to the student, who is going to provide the service, and who is going to ensure that the plan is implemented.

In either case, there is an evaluation process. Parental consent is required before a student can be evaluated. Parents can request that the school district pay for an independent education evaluation (IEE), but they dont have to agree. Parents do have the right to pay for an outside evaluation, but the district does not have to consider it when devising a plan for your child. If youre seeking an outside evaluation, its best to consult with the school psychologist. They should have a list of approved evaluators and are more likely to consider the results if its done by someone on this list.

The Educational Support Advisors at Play Attention have a wealth of knowledge and resources available to you about the 504/IEP process. We are also accredited to provide the FOCUS assessment. If you would like an attention assessment conducted with your child that will report your child's strengths and weaknesses, please contact us at 800-788-6786. The FOCUS assessment results can often be used to help design your child's IEP or 504 plan. We can also use the FOCUS assessment results to further customize your Play Attention plan. Click here to learn more about the FOCUS assessment.

Play Attention teaches the learning skills that are often set as objectives within the student's IEP or 504 plan. Attend our upcoming webinar to learn more.