IEP Or 504 Plan – Which One Is Right For Your Child?

IEP Or 504 Plan – Which One Is Right For Your Child?

When a student qualifies for special education the school district is required to develop an individual education program or “IEP” for the student.  The IEP must include the basis for special education eligibility, measurable goals and objectives, the services, accommodations, and/or modifications required to accomplish the goals, and the type of placement, such as regular education, resource, special day class, etc.

Sometimes, however, the school district will determine that the student has a disability, but still does not qualify for special education.  When this happens, the school district may propose a 504 plan instead of an IEP.  Most often this is when the school district believes that the student can be successful with accommodations only, and does not require any special education services.  Often the 504 plan is offered to students who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD who may be struggling, but are still managing to keep up in the classroom.  The 504 plan can include such accommodations as extra time, taking tests in an alternative location, and reduced levels of homework.

A 504 plan can work for some students, but is clearly not appropriate for a student who is failing classes due to inattention or who is performing significantly below grade level on standardized tests.  If the student needs specialized instruction, including home-based instruction, in order to be successful, then an IEP is more appropriate than a 504 plan.  When parents provide substantial outside support, such as tutoring and homework assistance, this can mask the seriousness of the impact of the disability on the student’s educational performance and thus the need for special education services.  Be sure the school district knows about the level of outside support when it is making the eligibility determination.  Another concern is that a 504 plan does not provide the same level of procedural protections as an IEP does for students who may engage in impulsive conduct that could lead to disciplinary measures.

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