Difference Between 504 Plan and IEP

Question: My third-grade son has ADHD and is currently being tested to see if he qualifies for some school accommodations. We will be having a meeting with the school in a few weeks. However, I would like to know what the difference is between a 504 Plan and an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Which would be best for my son? -- Concerned

Answer: You have asked a very common question. You are now on the road to obtaining answers from your school district. The plan that is best for your son depends on how much the ADHD affects his school work.

At your first meeting with the school, the school psychologist who did the testing will be present to explain the test results. You should receive the test report in the mail at least a week before the meeting. The test results will indicate which plan would be best for your son. Do keep in mind that the results could always come back that your son does not need either a 504 Plan or an IEP.

Parents need to know that children who are identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are eligible for IEPs; however, children who are identified under the 504 Plan are not eligible for an IEP.

Both the 504 Plan and the IEP are created by an educational team. Both plans can work well to serve students with ADHD. Both protect the rights of students with the disability and ensure that they will be learning in the least restrictive environment.

However, the 504 Plan and the IEP have unique differences.

  • -The 504 comes under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Children are eligible if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity. It does not need to have an educational impact.
  • -Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) serves children with disabilities through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). To qualify, a student needs more than just accommodations, they need services related to their disability.
  • -The 504 Plan is a shorter process and easier to get than an IEP. The plan will follow the student after he or she leaves high school.
  • -An IEP is a longer process that takes more time for students to become eligible, has some stigma attached and ends with high-school graduation.
  • -Children under a 504 Plan are only eligible to receive accommodations. Those under an IEP receive accommodations plus a wide range of services.