What’s the difference between IEP and 504 plans?

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2023 | Special Education Law

Florida parents who have special needs school-age children will want to ensure the most appropriate education for them. Different special education programs are available: an Individualized Education Program and 504. These are the differences between them.

Understanding Individualized Education Programs

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a program for special education students designed to meet each child’s unique needs. Many special needs children need help in areas such as behavior and academics, so an IEP is meant to include intervention for subjects they need extra help with such as math or speech. This assistance is provided in special settings and gives the child extra time to learn. Children with disabilities who fall under specific categories are eligible for IEPs. The program is designed to allow children to transition out of the public school system once they reach a certain age.

Understanding 504 plans

A 504 plan is provided to children who need occasional help to learn while they are placed in mainstream educational settings. A child is considered eligible for a 504 plan if they have a disability that substantially limits a major life activity. This doesn’t have to be a learning disability; for example, a child with a severe allergy could be eligible if they need special accommodations while learning.

How IEP and 504 plans differ

While both IEP and 504 plans share similarities, IEPs are considered more rigid while 504s are more flexible. However, 504 plans don’t provide the same safeguards as IEPs. For example, if your child is eligible for a 504 plan, their team and the plan it creates might be revised at any point.

Your special needs child might be eligible for both an IEP and 504 plan. You can determine which is the better option for their educational needs.