Today's EPTA Update post was submitted by educational consultant Adrienne Oliveira. Ms. Oliveira is an American Special Education Advocate living in Portugal. She was a Special Education teacher for 10 years, and her goal is to help American families whose children may have specific learning disabilities. For more information, you can visit Ms. Oliveira's website at www.advocateiep.com or contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout my career, many people have used the term 504 and IEP interchangeably, almost as if they are the same. They are not. Though they both can help your child learn better in school, I wanted to take this time to share with you some key differences.
504 plans offer accommodations (i.e. extended time, filled in notes, breaks etc…) to students in the general education classroom. These students need accommodations to help them access the curriculum. 504 plans are a civil rights law (section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
A parent can call a 504 meeting at any time (to the principal) if they feel that their child needs accommodations in the classroom. The 504 team consists of the child (if they are old enough), parents, teacher(s), administrator and school counselor. Usually, a doctor’s note describing the disability and 2-3 accommodations that the child needs will be discussed. The team usually meets annually and revisits the accommodations every year to determine if they need to be changed or if the plan is no longer needed.
Unlike a 504 plan, an IEP (Individuated Education Program) is part of a federal law (IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that requires schools to provide special education services. To qualify for an IEP you must first demonstrate that the disability falls in one (or more) of the following 13 categories:
If your child falls into one of these categories the disability must also be “adversely affected” in the general education classroom. Just having the disability won’t necessarily qualify you for an IEP. Your child is usually failing or struggling even with interventions in the general education classroom. Your child's disability is impacting them from learning.
You can request an IEP evaluation at any time (written letter) to the school. Your child will undergo testing in academic and psychological evaluations to determine areas of weakness. If your child does demonstrate such, the team will write goals, based on your child’s needs and accommodations in the classroom that should help them be successful. The IEP team consists of teachers, parents, administrator, psychologist and any specialists that were called (i.e. speech and language pathologist). An IEP meeting will be held every year to talk about progress on goals. Every three years (triennial) your child will be evaluated to see if they still qualify for Special Education Services.
This is just an overview of the differences between IEPs and 504 Plans. There is not one that is “better” than the other. They are both in place to help your child succeed in school. I wish you all a fantastic school year and please don’t hesitate to contact me with further questions.