IEP or 504 Plan
If your child receives special education services then they have an IEP. While the federal legislation called Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA or IDEA, 2004) spells out the rules and regulations for students who are placed in special education settings, and have an IEP; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, specifically Section 504, describes rules to protect students from discrimination because of their differences. When a student gets to college, it is Section 504 that ensures that they won’t be excluded from college because they cannot meet the SAT requirement because of their learning disability. It also ensures that an individual will not be discriminated because of chronic illness when they apply for a job. However, Section 504 also has an impact on education in grades k-12 too.
A 504 plan is a legal document that describes an instructional plan for children with disabilities when they are in the general classroom. The 504 plan focuses on the “reasonable” accommodations and modifications that will support the child’s learning. In practice, students with IEPS (like SLD or ASD) also need accommodations and modifications. However they do not also have 504 plans, as their IEPS contain the accommodations and modifications that are needed. IDEA requires specific criteria for each disability, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act doe s not. Therefore, the Rehab Act is more global, indicating only that the child/adult has to have an impairment of one of the systems of the body (skeleton, neurological, sensory, respiratory, etc). So a 504 plan may be developed for a student identified with AD/HD, ADD, Asthma, Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Bipolar Disorder, or many other chronic illnesses. The 504 plan provides strategies and direction for the general classroom teacher. The strategies are not very different from those used in IEPS, it is just that they are provided in the general class environment.