An IEP vs. a 504 Plan: What's What?

Can you tell me the basic differences between a 504 Plan and an IEP? I am confused.
The Experts | posted by Susan Yellin

An IEP provides a broader level of service and parental involvement than a 504 Plan, but is available only to students with specific disabilities (including “specific learning disabilities” and “Other Health Impairments” [OHI], which includes ADHD). To qualify for an IEP, a student must be diagnosed with one of these disabilities and require special education and related services. To qualify for a 504 Plan, a student must have a disability that “substantially limits one or more major life activities” and does not require special education services.

If a student with ADHD needs accommodations, such as extended time on tests and a quiet testing location, but can manage the rest of her school work, chances are, she is a good candidate for a 504 Plan. However, if a student with ADHD needs those same accommodations, but also needs reading support or specialized math instruction, she will probably qualify for an IEP to provide these services, as well as accommodations. If a student qualifies for an IEP, a 504 Plan is not needed.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that parents be a part of the IEP process. Section 504 does not require that the parent be part of the team that creates the 504 Plan.

Susan Yellin is an attorney and mother of three. She is the director of advocacy and counseling services at The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a New York City-based practice that provides educational evaluations, management, and guidance for students from grades K through graduate school.

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