California parents of students with special education needs often find they must advocate for the interests of their child in and out of the classroom. Part of this process is knowing the law and understanding what supports and services their child is entitled to. In many cases, students with disabilities are eligible for an IEP or a 504 Plan. It is helpful to understand the differences between these options.
An IEP or a 504?
Both of these plans are for those with a disability that require additional help and support in the classroom, such as accommodations. The primary differentiating factors between these two educational plans include:
- IEP – IEPs are intended to provide equal access to students with disabilities. It is far more structured and in depth than a 504 plan, helping a child reach specific and attainable educational goals through specialized services. These services can include but are not limited to: specialized academic instruction (SAI), speech and language, mental health, occupational therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), behavior support services and physical therapy. An IEP requires documentation of measured growth
- 504 Plan – This plan provides equal access to students with disabilities. It focuses on specific accommodations a student may need to succeed in the classroom, such as having extra time to complete a test.
Whether or not a child is entitled to an IEP or 504 is determined by an assessment process, along with a meeting with several required participants, including the parents, school personnel and the child.
Advocating For Your Child
Parents are entitled to advocate for their child’s educational needs. Knowing the differences between these education plans can help a parent fight for either an IEP or a 504 Plan. It may also be helpful for a parent to seek the guidance and support from an attorney with specific experience in special education law cases.