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Education Plans-Which One is Better? 504 or IEP

Updated on September 29, 2012

Broad Outlines of 504 and IEP

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is part of a civil rights statue which protects disabled people from discrimination. This covers physical and mental impairment which limit at least one major life activity. These include seeing, hearing, walking, speaking, learning, writing, reading, performing mathematical calculations, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks. Students who fall under Section 504 have no guarantee that it qualifies them to receive special education services. The act covers all Americans with disabilities.

For a child to have an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) there must be confirmation on that the child has a disability which requires significant assistance or modifications. All children needing assistance to participate in education would be candidates for a 504 plan but may not qualify for IEPs. Judgments on 504 vs IEP need to be made in consultation with parents.

Pros and Cons for 504

Students classified under 504 would get assistance for needs that have been identified. The advantage for teachers is that these needs are already laid out and it makes it easier to assimilate such students in a class. This may include preferential seating so that more attention is given to the child. Such students may be given fewer questions on a test and probably have to go through fewer choices. However one disadvantage to this plan is that students get used to being helped out by these small modifications and this does not really prepare them to go out into the world, where no such preference is given. Proper evaluation needs to be done to decide whether the debate of 504 vs IEP has been been correctly addressed.

Pros and Cons of IEP

When an IEP is properly prepared all targets will be short term, specific and achievable. Involvement of the pupil ensures that there is also full cooperation while attempting to reach targets. The targets should be very clear and free of any language that the student may find difficult to understand. All strategies for behavior and management have to be detailed and be clear on the persons involved and where and when such strategies are to be adopted. Reviews have to be held at regular intervals with all the persons involved in the teaching of that child, including family members if necessary.

The preparation of such IEP’s require careful evaluation of each student at an individual level and this can place a lot of stress on teaching staff who may have a number of children to deal with. There may then be a tendency for teachers to club the requirements of students under their guidance which in turn may become disadvantageous to some of the students.

Integrating 504 and IEP For Special Education

Any plan for special education of a child needs to be carefully planned and executed. Preferential seating need not mean seating in front of the teacher. Better results are noticed when such children are seated along with other children who have a good influence on them. Extended time for such children has to be specific and must be separate for homework, class work and tests. 504 and IEPs must be able to meet the educational needs of the students under such plans even if they are placed in regular classrooms. Teachers have however to ensure that the learning needs of individual students are in no way compromised.


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