top of page

IEP or 504, what do you need to help you succeed?


Both the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the 504 Plan aim to support students with disabilities, ensuring they receive appropriate accommodations to succeed in school. However, they are based on different laws and serve distinct purposes. This blog post will explore the differences and similarities between the two, shedding light on how they function and who they are designed to help.

IEP (Individualized Education Program)


-A child must have one of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA and need specialized education to qualify for an IEP. The process involves evaluation, assessment, and an IEP meeting.


- **Goals**: Specific, measurable annual goals tailored to the child's needs.

- **Services**: Description of specialized services, accommodations, and modifications.

- **Progress Monitoring**: Regular assessment of progress towards the goals.

Rights and Protections

- Right to Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

- Procedural safeguards, including mediation and due process.

Evaluation Process

The evaluation process for an IEP involves a multi-disciplinary team that conducts assessments to determine the child's specific needs. This team typically includes:

- Special education teachers (i.e. Teachers of the Deaf)

- Speech therapists

- Occupational therapists

- School psychologists

- Parents or guardians

-Physical therapists

Involvement of Parents

Parents are an integral part of the IEP process, actively participating in meetings and decision-making. They have rights to:

- Review assessments

- Participate in IEP meetings

- Dispute decisions through due process

Transition Services

IEPs include transition planning for students aged 16 and above (or younger if appropriate), focusing on the child's courses of study and post-school activities.

504 Plan

Definition and Legal Basis

A 504 Plan is designed to provide accommodations and modifications to students with disabilities in the general education setting. It is named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


A broader range of disabilities is covered under a 504 Plan. A child must demonstrate a disability (does not require a medical diagnosis, the school can evaluate) that substantially limits one or more major life activities, but they do not necessarily need specialized education.


- **Accommodations**: Adjustments in the general education setting to provide equal access.

- **Review Process**: Regular review to determine continued eligibility and appropriateness.

Rights and Protections

- Right to non-discrimination on the basis of disability.

- Fewer procedural safeguards compared to an IEP but includes grievance procedures.

Evaluation Process

The evaluation process for a 504 Plan can be less formal and may not require standardized testing. It could involve:

- Observations

- Grades and teacher reports

- Medical records

Development of the Plan

A team of educators familiar with the child develops the 504 Plan, considering the specific accommodations that will provide access to the general curriculum. Parents may be involved but are not legally required to participate.


Enforcement of a 504 Plan is typically less structured than an IEP. Parents might need to be more vigilant in ensuring that the school complies with the plan.

Comparison: IEP vs. 504 Plan


- **IEP**: Typically more expensive for the school district due to specialized services and staff.

- **504 Plan**: Generally less costly as it may only require reasonable accommodations within the general education setting.

Review and Revision

- **IEP**: Must be reviewed annually and reevaluated every three years (or more often if necessary).

- **504 Plan**: No specific timeline for review, but best practice suggests regular updates.


The choice between an IEP and a 504 Plan depends on the specific needs and characteristics of the student. An IEP tends to be more suitable for students requiring specialized instruction, while a 504 Plan works for those needing accommodations within the general education environment. Understanding the nuanced differences helps parents and educators to make informed decisions that align with the child's best interests.


bottom of page