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IEP vs. 504 Plans

IEP vs. 504 Plans: Highlights the two Plans and their Differences

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IEP vs. 504 Plans: Highlights the two Plans and their Differences

IEP vs. 504 Plans: What is the Difference?

As a parent with a disabled child, you should be well-informed about your child’s educational laws, services, and plans. It would help if you also were your child’s greatest supporter, advocate, and cheerleader. At Kids on the Yard, we believe that every parent has a role to play in ensuring that children with special needs access all their rights in school and public life.  We also believe in bringing out the best from every kid and every family. You can advocate for your child by helping him get accommodations and protection under IEP and Section 504 plans.


According to the U.S. Department of Education (2019), IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a learning program for students with disabilities that allow teachers to work closely with parents to meet the needs of the students. The individual education program ensures that students with a recognized disability receive specialized and individualized services, among other added protections. IEP is a section of the IDEA 97 laws that also allows for extra protection and services for children with disabilities not included in other children’s plans.


Section 504 plan is a section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects students with disabilities from discrimination in any activity or program that receives federal financial assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2020).  To qualify for a 504 plan, one must have a disability or disabilities that hinder a single or many life activities. The plan, which is under special needs programs, ensures that students with disabilities have equal access to education, among other services, as their peers with no disabilities. A child may receive modifications and accommodations under the Section 508 plan, even when they do not qualify for other unique education plans.


Yes. Both plans provide students with disabilities with certain modifications and accommodations to help them to succeed in school. Both plans offer language and speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Both plans do not require special placement for the students; your child will remain in a regular class. Both plans provide accommodations at no charges.


[*] Section 504 Plan is under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, while IEP is under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

[*] 504 plan is under  Civil Rights Law while  IEP is under Federal ‘special education law

[*] While Section 504 is meant to end discrimination against persons with disabilities (including students), IEP only protects and covers students with disabilities.

[*] The main objective of Section 504 Plan is to eliminate physical barriers that hinder learning among disabled students. On the other hand, IEP aims to provide disabled students with special education in less restrictive environments.

[*] For a student to qualify for the 504 Plan, he must have a disability that interferes with his learning ability. On the other hand, a student qualifies for the IEP plan if he has a disability/disabilities listed under IDEA and if the disability affects the student’s performance and ability to benefit from the education curriculum.

[*] Generally, the 504 plan includes specific services, accommodations, and support that the student will receive.  The IEP plan typically consists of the annual educational goals, services offered and their durations, accommodations, modifications, plans for testing, and a general education program plan.

[*] Section 504 Plan states that parents should be informed before any significant change is done to the plan. The IEP plan calls for a written request before a change is done. Parents can appeal or raise a dispute in case they have some disagreement.  

[*] Unlike in the IEP plan, where notification from parents must be done in writing, the 504 Plan does not have such a requirement.
 504 Plan is reviewed every year and reevaluated after every three years.  The IEP team must review the plan every year and reevaluate if the students determine if they are still eligible every three years.

[*] While both the 504 Plan and IEP provide students with disabilities accommodations, only IEP provides specialized instruction for grade 12th students. IEP services students in grade 12 and college but does not provide specialized education.

Parting Shot

A 504 Plan can be your best choice if your child functions appropriately in a regular class environment with appropriate support and accommodations.  On the other hand, An IEP is a better option if your child has a disability that adversely impacts his/her learning.

U.S. Department of Education. (2019). A Guide to the Individualized Education Program; Archived information. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Education. (2020). Protecting Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from

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