Both Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are designed to offer help to students with disabilities. While they are similar in some respects, they are different plans. They both stem from Federal Law: IEPs are governed by Special Education Law/Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA); 504 plans are governed by the Civil Rights-Rehabilitation Act. Both require the child to have a documented disability. But which does your child need?
For an IEP plan, your child must have a diagnosis or documented disability AND that disability creates an adverse impact on his/her educational performance and that special services and instruction are essential for your child’s success. So, it is possible that your child has a disability yet does not qualify for an IEP. The plan can include specialized education services, accommodations or related services. IEPs end after your child finishes 12th grade.
To qualify for a 504 plan, your child must have a disability that affects a “major life function”. This disability can be either physical or mental but it must impact a “major life function”. This “major life function” does not have to be related to education or have an educational impact. The plan can include accommodations or modifications to assist your child. 504 plans can also follow your child into college.