Does my child need an IEP or a 504 plan or both?

Your child does not need both a 504 plan and an IEP (Individualized Education Program).  If your child has an IEP, any 504 accommodations are included in the IEP.

An IEP is the document created under IDEA (Individuals with disabilities education act) to provide individualized education instruction to meet a child’s specific needs.  IDEA and an IEP have more rights and protections built into the law than a 504 plan does.  As an IEP is more encompassing, it pulls into it any 504 accommodations to become part of the IEP.  Many IEP’s will have pages listing these accommodation, like preferential seating,  extended time on tests, extra sets of books, and the ability to turn in homework late are just a few of the most popular one.

A 504 plan stems from section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation act.  The easiest way to think about it section 504 does for education what the American with disabilities act does in the workplace.  it requires the schools to grant reasonable accommodations due to the child’s disability.  What child needs will depend on the condition.  Generally, individual education services are not provided under a 504 plan.  That does not mean that no services can be provided with just a 504 plan.  A 504 plan can still require a teacher to notify a parent of any missing homework for the week, could still give the child access to a resource room as a quiet place to complete assignments or tests, and can still require a school to read a test to a student.

What an IEP does that a 504 plan cannot is offer services to address specific educational needs of the child.  A 504 plan cannot modify the child’s curriculum (or grading scale), but an IEP will. A 504 plan will not give a child access to special education services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.  These services are part of special education.  They are individualized programs to address the specific needs of the child.  Think of it this way, if not every child in the school can be in the program, then it likely falls under special education and requires an IEP.  On a side note, some states apply this to gifted children as well and write IEP’s for them.   Not all states treat gifted children under IDEA) and the child needs an IEP, for a list of how states treat gifted kids and IEPs see Hoagies Gifted Education.   This is a great resource for parents of gifted kids and those of us with 2-e (twice exceptional: gifted children with disabilities) kids.

On a practical side, the enforcement of an IEP is much more parent friendly then a 504 plan.  The entire process of enforcement is outlined in IDEA and includes administrative remedies before the parents must pursue the school in federal court.  On the other hand, the only option to enforce a 504 plan is to head straight to federal court.

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10 responses

  1. OT services can be provided through a 504 plan and are not necessarily special education

    1. True, and I have heard stories of speech being provided through a 504 plan. But many districts I run into refuse to provide these services through 504 (and I think there are arguments made for and against it under the law).

      In addition, I think a parent has a strong argument that if the child needs OT or speech, they need an IEP and an IEP has a much better enforcement rules for the parents then 504 does

  2. I have worked with a child under a 504 Plan. She has autism and ADHD (8 y.o.). She has now qualified for speech/language at my school. Should her 504 accommodations become part of her IEP?

    1. Yes the 504 accommodations should be incorporated into the IEP

  3. can you get 504 program if you get OT therapy . My son just had his OT eval witch is covered by his insurance but he also needs the 504 program to accommodate his learning disability can you have both the school said no but OT therapist said yes

    1. Some schools will do some therapies through a 504 plan, but therapy is usually a individualized education program, thus resulting in IEP eligibility. If the child is eligible for an IEP, then the 504 accomidations should be included in the IEP as well.

      Is the school providing the OT? Because it sounds like your doing OT outside of school (hence the insurance coverage remark). If it is the case that the school is not providing the therapy, then they could only offer a 504 plan for the accommodations needed.

      It also makes a difference whether or not the child is in private or public school.

  4. If a student has an IEP for articulation only, how can 504 accommodations be supported? The disability recognized by state law (articulation) is not impacting the student in testing or other areas. Often students will have an ADD or other medical diagnosis but do not qualify for IEP services due to state qualification quidelines. How are accommodations for testing, work complettion, etc. defensible in an IEP that is for articulation only? These difficulties are not related to the primary disability.

    1. Because an IEP, by law, is to address ALL of the child’s educational needs. This is not defined by a diagnosis, but what the child that specific child’s needs are. Thus if the child has an IEP for articulation, but needs accommodations like extended homework time due to the ADHD, then the 504 accommodations should also be written into the IEP>

      Again, the IEP is not for a specific diagnosis, it is to meet all of a qualifying child’s educational needs. So you will see IEP’s written for nonverbal learning disorders that include accommodations for ADHD or anxiety or asthma etc

  5. We had an initial conference for my stepson today and were told since he receives IEP for speech he cannot have a 504 plan. They said he does not qualify for other services through an IEP since academically he is permforming adequately but that requires HOURS of direct supervised homework and additional non-assigned work by us and there are 3 other kkids in the home sp this is getting quite tiresome. The representative from the school corporation – school psychologist – stated he would be a perfect candidate for a 504 plan but he desperately does require the speech therapy..
    what options are left to us as parents?

    1. Under IDEA all accommodations must also be included in an IEP. This falls under the related services portion of IDEA. Further, 504 accommodations have nothing to do with academics. They deal solely with evening the playing field for the child. This includes things like shortened work assignments, preferential seating, testing in quiet locations or things like carrying an epi pen, allowances for taking longer to make up missed work and so forth.

      See also
      If your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the IEP team—which includes the parents—must decide which accommodations are appropriate and include them in the student’s IEP
      The IEP must include a plan to meet ALL your child’s unique needs. (this is the language that includes 504 accommodations)

      The school should not be telling you that he is not eligible for these accommodations due to his academics nor that he cannot get them because he has an IEP.

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