Everything You Need to Know About IDEA, IEPs, and Section 504 Plans
Struggling to figure out which program is the best fit for your child? Read on for a breakdown of IEPs and 504 Plans.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers students who qualify for special education. Under IDEA, a student is eligible to receive special education and/or related services if it can be determined that the student has a disability under one of the qualifying conditions.
Each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), according to the Department of Education. The basic requirements for IEPs are that they must be designed for one student and must be individualized documents.
Students who do not meet the criteria spelled out by IDEA may still qualify for help under SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also known simply as “Section 504” or “a 504 Plan.”
What’s the difference between IEPs and 504 Plans?
While the procedures are different, the goal is the same: to ensure that students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education that is comparable to the education available to their non-disabled peers.
IEPs under IDEA cover students who qualify for Special Education. Section 504 covers students who don’t meet the criteria for special education but who still require some accommodations. Section 504 is actually a civil rights law, designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal assistance from the Department of Education. A student is eligible as long he/she currently has or has had a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. Students who have ADHD may qualify if their ADHD “substantially limits” their ability to learn.
Instead of having an IEP, students who qualify under Section 504 are required to have a plan that specifies any accommodations that will be made in the classroom. Accommodations for the ADHD student may include allowing extra time to complete assigned work or breaking long assignments into smaller parts.