Parents often want to know whether they should get a 504 plan and whether this differs from an IEP. The first point to keep in mind is that any child with an IEP is automatically protected by Section 504 -- the IEP is a more far-reaching legal document. For instance, Section 504 allows students with disabilities to obtain accommodations and modifications for their disabilities, but under the IDEA which governs IEP's, any child with an IEP would be entitled to the same accommodations and modifications. Section 504, unlike the IDEA, does not guarantee an individualized educational program to meet the child's unique needs. It is just meant to give students the same access to education and school programs/activities as students without disabilities. Still, a Section 504 plan can serve an important role for individuals with disabilities who do not need special education and would not qualify for IEP's. The standard for eligibility is that the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity which can mean any number of activities. If your child has been unable to obtain an IEP, you should discuss the issue of a 504 plan with your child's school.
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