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IEP vs. 504 Plan: What Does My Child Need?

So What's the difference?


Both of these plans are designed to support students with disabilities in the educational setting, but they have some key differences. Check them out!

IEP (Individualized Education Program):

  1. Eligibility: To qualify for an IEP, a student must have a disability that adversely affects their educational performance and requires specialized instruction.

  2. Services: IEPs provide a range of individualized services, such as specially designed instruction, related services (like speech therapy), accommodations, and modifications to the curriculum.

  3. Planning Process: The IEP is developed through a formal process involving parents, teachers, special education professionals, and sometimes the student. It includes specific goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes.

  4. Legal Basis: IEPs are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for eligible students.

  5. Scope: IEPs are more comprehensive and tailored to the specific needs of the student. They address academic, social, and functional goals.

504 Plan (Section 504 Plan):

  1. Eligibility: To qualify for a 504 Plan, a student must have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including learning. The disability need not be as severe as for an IEP.

  2. Services: 504 Plans provide accommodations to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities. This can include things like extended time on tests, preferential seating, and note-taking assistance.

  3. Planning Process: The 504 Plan is developed with input from teachers, school staff, and parents. It outlines specific accommodations and supports that the student needs.

  4. Legal Basis: 504 Plans are based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in federally funded programs, including schools.

  5. Scope: 504 Plans are generally less detailed and encompassing than IEPs. They focus primarily on removing barriers and ensuring equal access, rather than addressing specific academic goals.

In a nutshell, an IEP is a more comprehensive plan tailored to students with significant educational needs due to disabilities, while a 504 Plan is designed to ensure access and remove barriers for students with disabilities, even if their needs are not as extensive. The decision about whether a student receives an IEP or a 504 Plan depends on the nature and severity of the disability and how it impacts the student's educational experience.


I'm happy to provide a free consultation to dig a bit deeper into educational supports for your child! Schedule a time to talk HERE!


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