Opinions

IEPs vs 504s

There’s a general stigma that goes along with specialized education for children with learning difficulties or disorders. It may be that people think they can’t function around their peers, that they’re not smart or that those children are lazy and just don’t try hard enough in school. If someone has an IEP or 504 Plan, that means that they have had trouble at school, met with their teachers and parents, been diagnosed with a disorder or impairment that affects their learning, been recommended by school administration for a Special Education Assessment and had another meeting with their parents and teachers to discuss what accommodations they can get.

While IEPs and 504 plans are generally lumped together, there is still a distinguishable difference between the two. IEPs fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and allow the student special classroom and curriculum modifications, specialized instructions, speech or physical therapy, counseling or, here in Las Lomas, a supervised period solely for work and/or tests called Learning Skills. A 504 Plan falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the student must be diagnosed with physical or emotional disability or impairment that affects their learning or classwork. In a 504 Plan, a student can receive similar accommodations to the IEP, such as class, test, work or curriculum modifications; special support or schedule modifications. However, therapy, counseling and Learning Skills aren’t included in 504 Plans.

If you think you need an IEP, the first thing you need to do is to know whether or not you have any disabilities that would qualify for one. There are 13 main disabilities that qualify someone for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including (but not limited to) autism, blindness, deafness, an intellectual disability, a learning disability, a speech or impairment, a traumatic concussion and a behavioural disability, but not every one guarantees an IEP. You have to show that the disability you have directly affects your learning and/or class performance. The next step is to have your parent/guardian set up a meeting with your associate principal and all your teachers and request a special education assessment, a test to see how your disability affects your school performance and what accommodations it qualifies you for. After that, the school recommends whether or not they believe you qualify for an IEP. If so, you participate in an IEP meeting with your parents/guardians, associate principal and all of your teachers, and together you brainstorm ideas that could help improve your school performance. Once the IEP is signed by everyone, it will be put in effect and be reviewed with your teachers and parents/guardians annually, and another IEP meeting to review the plan will take place 3 years after the first.

On the other hand, 504 Plans flow quite similarly, but with slightly different results. You still need to be diagnosed with a disability (or with 504 Plans, an impairment) that negatively affects your school performance. You still need a special education assessment,