Let’s start with the basics. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. The term
“504 Plan” comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits the
discrimination of people with disabilities from participating in activities or programs that
are federally funded.
Why do the differences between IEPs and 504 plans matter?
When choosing the right path for your child who has a learning disability, it’s important
to fully understand what each path offers. IEPs provide individualized special education
that is customized for each student’s unique needs. A 504 plan offers accommodations
within the student’s current learning environment, allowing them to learn alongside their
Both IEPs and 504 plans are provided at no cost in the public school system. Each track
has two unique requirements. To receive an IEP, a student must have one or more of
the 13 disabilities listed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and
that disability must impact the student’s ability to progress in school. To be eligible for a
504 plan, a student can have any disability, but that disability must interfere with the
student’s ability to learn in a general education classroom.
A parent or caregiver’s consent is always required for an IEP or 504 plan to be put in
place. Each track requires a support team for the child to succeed. IEPs require the
parent or caregiver, at least one of the student’s general education teachers and one of
their special education teachers, along with a school psychologist and district
representative who has authority over special education services. The support team for
students with 504 plans includes their parent or caregiver, the school principal, their
general education teachers and special education teachers.
For both tracks, it’s the responsibility of these support teams to carry out the
implemented services and specific accommodations. IEPs require more details, such as
academic levels and functional performance, educational goals, extended school year
services, any accommodations or modifications to the student’s learning environment,
and how they participate in standardized testing. 504 plans require accommodations
and additional support for the student be monitored, along with who provides the
services, and who is responsible for ensuring the services are implemented.
Of course, without a diagnosis, neither plan can be put into place. Public school districts
offer free diagnostic testing. If you are interested in private diagnostic testing
independent of your school district, please email email@example.com, and we will
connect you with one of our amazing diagnosticians.