If your child has ADHD, you know exactly what it is like to be one of the most crucial members of your child’s educational team. However, with all of the information out there to help assist you in this process, you might be a little confused as to what type of help your child needs. So what is the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP Plan and which is better for your child?
Both the 504 plan and the IEP Plan were designed to give children with disabilities access to and assistance with education provided through the public school system. A student with a disability is eligible for a Section 504 plan if he or she requires an accommodation to have equal access to classes or programs. For example, a student taking ADHD medication may need to leave the room to have that medicine administered, or in my son’s case, may need to go to the nurse to take a nap because of the drowsiness induced by his prescription. Or, in the case of both my sons, who forget to bring home their books, an extra set of books was given to them to keep at home. Students like my sons may need such help, but they do not require any modifications to the curriculum to help them learn. Because of that distinction they would not be eligible for special education under an IEP Plan. In most circumstances 504 Plans work well for ADHD children because they provide support for organizational or behavioral accommodations that help the child academically.
IEP plans are also harder to obtain than 504 Plans. For a 504 Plan to be implemented, all a parent need do is have proof that their child has a disability, that is affecting their ability to perform effectively, and ask the school administrator for one. In the case of an IEP Plan, the child also needs to be evaluated and the disability established but the IEP Plan is drafted by a representative group including general and special education teacher(s), administrators who are knowledgeable about district programs and resources, therapists, evaluators and, of course, the parents, and in certain cases, the child. 504 plans will be developed with the administrator, teachers and parents as well, but in a much more informal setting.
While each plan has distinct attributes that make them different from one another, the biggest differences between the two are how much help your child needs, where in the school system they are placed to receive the highest degree of attention needed to succeed, and the level of involvement additional experts are going to have in the entire process. For my children, a 504 Plan was sufficient to provide them the right environment and access to be incredibly successful in school