Simply put, an IEP (individualized education plan) is a by-product of a special education evaluation process determining specially designed instruction (sdi) for your child. Through a specific learning disability or within the context of health-physical related impairments, your child would receive special education assistance above and beyond the general education program. Whereas, the Section 504 process is designed for students who also have an impairment significantly impacting learning, though accommodations fall within the general education arena and do not require “sdi”. Based upon my experience, 504 Plans are a greater challenge for parents due to the general nature of the process; some teachers and staff are right on with accommocations and support while others are reluctant and resistant to changes in instruction or class management. Negotiating well written 504 Plans are very difficult for most parents for one doesn’t often know exactly what to ask for or what is a reasonable accommodation.
FYI: Both IEP and 504 Plan consideration address the same questions within the evaluation process:
1. Does the student have a diagnosis by a licensed clinician or a disability assessment by the school? If YES, move to question 2
2. Does the diagnosis or disability present an impairment within one of life’s experiences such as school? If YES, move to question 3
3. Would accommodations through a 504 Plan or / and Specially Designed Instruction through an IEP be most appropriate?
Working with an advocate through the process described above provides experience, knowledge, and expertise to navigate the questions guiding both 504 and IEP meetings.