What is an IEP and 504 Plan?

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There are so many things to learn when you are engaging with any discipline. The field of special education is no different. There is lingo that practitioners speak and there are resources that are critical to be aware of in order to best support your students and to make your life easier as well. 

If you are thinking of pursuing an academic program in the field of special education, it is great that you are doing your homework to learn more about this career path. There are some excellent online special education bachelor’s degree programs that will provide you with the skills to be successful educators and even work on the policy end if that is more your passion. If you want to go even deeper with your practice and feel that virtual learning is a good fit for you, you might want to consider pursuing an online special education masters degree program? There are many paths one can take to engage in the discipline of special education, and if this where your passion lies, it is important to learn all about the resources available and understand all of the language that will enable you to be part of the conversation. So, let’s talk about some important aspects of supporting people with disabilities and their families. 

What is an IEP?

IEPs are an important aspect of the field of special education. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, though many people call it an Individualized Education Plan. When a child is assessed for special education programming, the IEP process has started for them. The IEP process, however, is quite extensive and has many steps. It is often used as the key to unlock the best support options. This is the file for which the strengths and challenges of the child are explored. The IEP will also lay out all of the plans the school has to support the child academically with a tailored instruction program that is best for their circumstance. 

The first step of opening an IEP is requesting that the child get evaluated for special education services. Following the complex evaluation process, the school will determine if the student can receive special education services after reviewing all of the information. The IEP itself is a selection of documents that are often challenging to decode. They include all of the notes and evaluation information including test results and progress goals for the student. The other thing to be aware of are the IEP meetings that will be required for parents to engage with the team making decisions for their child regarding their educational plan. The IEP process is ever evolving and will transition with the child over time, as their needs change. Parents are a critical factor in the IEP process, and they will always remain the child’s strongest advocate. The parent and the rest of the IEP team, which may include teachers and counselors, will have to stay on top of the child’s IEP plan in order to make changes accordingly and best support the child. 

What’s the Difference Between an IEP and a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan, unlike an IEP, is a document that is created in order to ensure that the child is receiving the appropriate services that are tailored to the student’s needs. Some students who have a disability do not need to receive instruction that is tailored to their unique circumstances. Students in this situation, however, need to have the assurance that the school system will offer them equal access to the services they are entitled to as it relates to their education. This is where the 504 comes into play. The 504 document refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and it is the section that suggests it is required that there is documentation of the student’s measurable growth. This is granted through the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the rights they are entitled to. This is a document outlining the students specific requirements for accessibility in school. As per an IEP, the 504 will have to be updated each year, as a way to ensure the student is receiving the services they need and not falling through the cracks.  

The IEP includes many documents and plans, while the 504 is one that either supports the IEP or is created for students who need accessibility, but not necessarily an entire IEP plan. There are many other supporting organizations and paperwork that will follow the student throughout their secondary education experience.


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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?