This is one of the most common questions I’m asked as a school psychologist. With the school year rapidly approaching, I thought I’d give some brief information about each and provide some places you can go on the web, that are reliable, to get more information.
“504 Plan“: A 504 Plan comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based on disability. A 504 plan is about “leveling the playing field” for a child. This means that the curriculum used and output created the student are the same as the other students in the class. The student may receive accommodations, to account for his/her disability, such as taking a test in a different room to reduce the distractions for a student with ADHD or maybe the child will receive multiple breaks during the day to test his/her blood sugar for a student with diabetes. A 504 Plan is a written document that outlines the accommodations that a student will be allowed to use. It can/should be updated yearly to be sure that what is listed is being used and is also the accommodations that still work best for the child. Read more about about eligibility for 504 Plans here.
IEP: An IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan and comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which is aimed at making sure a student with a disability receives the specialized instruction and related services necessary to be successful in the educational setting. There are 11 disability categories according to IDEA. You can read more about them here. An IEP is an education plan that is created for a student after a thorough assessment including psychoeducational assessment, speech / language assessment, occupational therapy assessment, and academic assessment. An IEP provides modifications for the student such as additional instruction, adding related services like speech/language therapy, and may modify the curriculum the student is taught from and the output they are required to create. An IEP is a written document that is updated yearly to ensure the plan is the most appropriate for the student at that moment in time.
Want to learn more? Wrightslaw is a wonderful online resource with information about special education law and education law. http://www.wrightslaw.com/