I heard the words that no parent wants to hear. “I think your child may have a learning disability.” How many of us know when our kids are going through something, we go through it too and we aren’t right until our kids are right. After I went through the grieving process – denial, guilt, anger, and acceptance, I agreed to go through the child study process. A child study is when a team from the school (including, but not limited to the school social worker, school psychologist, school counselor, general education teacher, and an administrator) provides consultative, evaluative, and prescriptive services to teachers and parents in regard to students who are experiencing school related difficulties. A child study is for either the IEP or the 540 Plan. It was determined that he had learning challenges and other health impairments. So, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) was created for my son. I didn’t really know much about special education services or the laws that surrounded them. I know so much more now.

Which is better an IEP or a 504? It really depends on the long-term goals that you and your child have. However, if I knew then what I know now I would have pushed for a 504 Plan instead. Let’s examine both of them.
The IEP falls under IDEA which is the Special Education – Individuals with Disabilities Act and a 504 Plan is under the Civil Rights – Rehabilitation Act of 1973. An IEP falls under the Department of Education, while the 504 Plan is under the Office Civil Rights.

Requirement for 504 & IEP

Requirements for Eligibility
Has a disability that:
•Meets criteria under IDEA
•Significantly impacts educational performance
•Requires specialized services
Has a disability that significantly impacts a major life function
What’s Included in the Plans?
Specialized education services
Related services

Accommodations are an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. For example, a student may be allowed to use an electronic spell checker during class and home assignments, but not on spelling tests. Modifications are changing the assignment or an objective to make the material more manageable and/or understandable for those with learning disabilities. For instance, a student may be given a shorter version of the test or a completely different test. While they sound similar, they are different.

An IEP is normally only effective through the twelfth grade and doesn’t transfer to higher education, but a 504 Plan has no age limit. This is the main reason why I wish I would have understood the difference. I believe that my son would have benefited from having the 504 Plan through his college experience. In addition, my son still would have received the accommodations and the modifications that he needed when he was in elementary, middle, and high school under the 504 Plan.
Parents you have the power. You choose what happens with your child not the school system. You. So, this blog post is a starting point for your research. Continue to educate yourself so that you can make the best, informed choice for your child/children. Best regards.

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