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Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan? How do I Know which is Right for My Child?

By March 6, 2023Nesca Notes 2023

By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Both an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a 504 Plan can provide supports for students in grades K-12 who are struggling in school, to ensure the student is able to receive “free and appropriate public education (FAPE).” However, not all students who are struggling will qualify for these supports.

An IEP provides a plan for students who require special education supports and direct related services to meet their unique needs, and these supports need to be provided at no cost to the family.

There are two requirements a child must meet to qualify for an IEP. The student must have one or more of the 13 disabilities noted in The Individuals With Disability Education Act (IDEA), which is the federal special education law for children with disabilities. Some of the disabilities listed include a Specific Learning Disability, autism (ASD), other health impairment (e.g., AD/HD), speech or language impairment, or an intellectual disability (for a full list of the 13 disabilities, see https://www.doe.mass.edu › sped › definitions). The second requirement is that the disability must affect the child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum, meaning the child must need specialized instruction to make progress in school. The IEP sets learning goals and describes the services the school will provide. Some components the IEP must include are: how the child is currently performing in school (e.g., academic and functional performance) along with annual education goals and services the child will receive. Additionally, the school will track progress toward those goals and the IEP team must review the IEP at least once a year.

A 504 Plan stems from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is a federal civil rights law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities and requires the school to provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability. A 504 Plan provides services and changes to the learning environment to enable students to learn alongside their peers. As with an IEP, a 504 plan is provided at no cost to families. There are two requirements to be eligible for a 504 Plan. A child has any disability, and the disability must interfere with the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom. According to Section 504, the disability must substantially limit one or more basic life activities. Because the definition of disability is broader on a 504 Plan, a child who does not qualify for an IEP might still be eligible for a 504 Plan. In general, a 504 Plan is a good option for students with disabilities who do not require specialized instruction but do need specific accommodations to receive FAPE (e.g., extended time on tests, larger print text, priority seating close to the front of the classroom).

To determine if your child would qualify for an IEP or 504, it is important that they receive a thorough evaluation (cognitive, educational, functional, social/emotional, etc.) to determine their level of need. This evaluation can be completed through the public school system or an independent evaluator.

Sources:

www.understood.org

https://www.mpgfirm.com/back-to-basic-rights-iep-vs-504/

 

About the Author

With NESCA since its inception in 2007, Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.

She has given a number of presentations, most recently on “How to Recognize a Struggling Reader,” “Supporting Students with Working Memory Limitations,” (with Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Architects for Learning ), and “Executive Function in Elementary and Middle School Students.”

Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders, and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children.

Her professional memberships include MAGE (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education), IDA (International Dyslexia Association), MABIDA (the Massachusetts division of IDA) and MNS (the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society).

She is the mother of one college-aged daughter.

 

To book a consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.