I hope you enjoyed a great weekend! I was having a great conversation with a couple of our Wheelock parents who shared questions about the IEP/504 process.
I suggested it might be helpful to provide a brief overview of the differences between a 504 and the IEP in my blog. There is a lot of comprehensive information out there about the differences between the IEP and 504.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/iep/
To be eligible for special education, a child must be found to have one of the 13 kinds of disabilities that IDEA covers. They are:
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment (such as ADHD)
- Specific Learning Disability (dyslexia, etc)
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment, including blindness
Kids with disabilities don’t automatically qualify for special education services, though. In order to be eligible, a student must:
- Possess a disability and as a result of the disability:
- Require special education (sometimes referred to as specially designed instruction) in order to make progress in school
- An IEP can provide accommodations, and even modifications to the curriculum, if necessary - A modification is a change in what a student is expected to learn. For example, instead of reading a book at his or her grade level, your child might need to read a book written for three grade levels lower. Usually, a child who needs modifications would have an IEP, and not a 504 plan.
Children who aren’t eligible for support under IDEA (for an IEP) might still be eligible for support under another law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This law protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities, including schools, that receive federal funds.
Section 504 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a person’s ability to participate in a major life activity, such as learning. Section 504 has a broader definition of disability. This is why students who aren't eligible for an Individualized Educational Program may be eligible for a 504 plan instead of an IEP.
A 504 plan can assist students by providing accommodations which help students access the general curriculum. Identification has two prongs. Diagnosis of a disability or "impairment" and substantial impact on a major life skill, such as seeing, breathing, walking, learning, and so on. A student can have a disability, but not be eligible for a 504, if the student is making progress in the regular curriculum. If the diagnosis is affecting the student substantially, reasonable accommodations can be put in place to assure access through the 504 process. The goal is to provide accommodations to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students to provide equal access to the curriculum. http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/links/sec504.html
I hope this information was helpful. I am happy to meet with parents anytime to assist with the process or refer you to our experts in these areas.