A 504 education plan comes from Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It’s designed to help parents of students with physical or mental impairments work with educators to design customized educational plans.
These plans support our students with disabilities and remove barriers to learning. The goal is to give the student equal access at school. These plans prevent discrimination. And they protect the rights of students with disabilities in school.
The main difference between a 504 plan and an IEP is that a 504 plan can transfer to college education, a IEP can’t. There’s also a difference in how each plan describes disability. A 504 plan stipulates that a disability significantly impacts major life function. Whereas IEP criteria includes disability that significantly affects educational performance. For example, disabilities covered by a 504 plan might include hearing impairments or impairments that affect movement. Whereas students who have dyslexia or ASD would fall under an IEP. IEPs are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You can learn more about what is covered under IDEA by visiting the Government website.
The term "assistive technology" or "AT" may never appear on the IEP/504 forms used by your school. Instead the form may use terms such as "accommodations, supports, program modifications or supplementary aids and services." No matter what form is used by the IEP/504 team in your school, the law requires that the assistive technology needs of the child must be considered.
However, it's important to note that unlike IEPs under 504 plans, schools aren't responsible for recommending, purchasing or training students to use AT. They must be willing to consider it as an accommodation though.
It’s important to keep in mind that AT’s role is to assist a student’s learning. It doesn’t replace good teaching, but it can be used in addition to well-designed instruction. AT has been proven to help students with their self-confidence, and independent study. It’s also been shown to help students to:
You can read more about choosing the right tools for your child on our dedicated page.
In fact, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , the federal law governing special education, lists parents first on the list of required members of a student’s IEP team.
Parents and caregivers play an important role in decisions about where and how students will be taught. This is referred to as “placement.” This term covers not only which classroom or school your child is placed in, but also which services will be included in the IEP. Services can include things like one-on-one sessions with specialists.
IEPs are based on something called “the present level of academic achievement and functional performance” (known as PLAAFP, PLP, or PLOP ). This means they need to know how a student is doing now so they can measure future progress. Parents or caregivers’ input about how the student functions at home is valuable to PLOP. Observations from the home environment help the IEP team figure out weaknesses, strengths, and level of academic skills.
The IEP team set measurable annual goals for students. A parent’s input can help define and refine goals so they’re realistic but still ambitious. Annual goals give students and their teachers something concrete to work toward. It’s also a good way of adding some accountability for the school in addressing the needs of the student.
Students should receive supports and services that are tailored to specific needs. But it’s easy for a busy special education department to apply a “standard” set of supports and services to all students with a certain disability. A parent’s role here is to make sure the IEP is designed with the individual student in mind.