As a parent you are constantly making decisions on what is best for your child. When your a parent who has a child with a disability, those decisions get even tougher, especially when it comes to education.
As your child comes of age when they can attend kindergarten, you might hear your pediatrician mention that you should look into either the IEP or the 504 Plan for them. If you find yourself staring at the pediatrician and feel like they are speaking another language (which they are by the way), you are not alone. Though the number of IEP and 504 Plans are increasing each year in the public school system, it still is not the hot topic that’s talked about.
What is a 504 Plan? A 504 Plan falls under the Disability Act and is federally funded. Since the 504 Plan is federally funded, any school (public or private) that receives funds for it must offer the plan. The 504 Plan allows your child to fully participate in school activities along with everyone else, there are no barriers. The school is required to provide your child with any necessities they need in order to participate, for example being wheelchair accessible. Any child who either has a mental or physical impairment that will limit one or more life activities and who has a record of having an impairment will fall under the 504 Plan. There is no specific list of diseases, conditions or disorders when it comes to qualifying under the 504 Plan, so even a child with asthma will fall under it.
The IEP stands for the Individualized Education Program and falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All public schools are required by IDEA to develop an IEP for all students who have been evaluated and are eligible for the Special Needs Program. Once your child is eligible for an IEP, the school creates a plan that fits your child’s specific needs. To qualify for an IEP and receive special education services your child must have one of thirteen disabilities that effects their academic performance (such as ADHD). The key factor for receiving an IEP is your child’s academic performance. Regardless of your child’s disability, if they are doing well in school and receiving good grades, they will not qualify for an IEP.
So in a nutshell, the 504 Plan creates an level playing field so that a disabled student can safely pursue the same opportunities as everyone else in school. The IEP is focused on providing educational services for a disabled student allowing them to attend special need classes and to learn at their own pace.