Does My Child Need an IEP or a 504?
When parents call our offices, they often want to find support for their child at school. Oftentimes teachers and administrators struggle with identifying proper supports for children, not because of a lack of knowledge or resources, but usually due to a lack of clarity regarding a child’s specific needs and challenges.
After a child completes a psychological evaluation with us, we provide a number of resources, referrals, ideas, learning strategies, and any clinical diagnoses to parents. These are like a tool belt for parents and teachers as they step into providing help at home and at school. One of the most common questions we hear is, “Will this help my child get an IEP?”
What is an IEP?
An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a legally binding document that addresses your child’s unique learning issues and includes specific educational goals. According to federal law, the school must provide everything documented in the IEP.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools create an IEP for every child who qualifies (qualification is determined with rigorous evaluation). Children from age 3 through high school graduation, or a maximum age of 22 (whichever comes first), may be eligible for an IEP.
Here’s a brief overview of what an IEP must include, by law:
- A statement of your child’s present level of performance (PLOP)—how your child is doing in school at the time of the implementation of the IEP.
- Your child’s annual educational goals.
- Special education supports and services the school will provide to help your child reach his goals.
- Modifications and accommodations the school will provide to help your child’s progress.
- Accommodations your child will be allowed when taking standardized tests.
- How and when the school will measure your child’s progress toward annual goals.
- Transition planning that prepares teens for life after high school.
What is a 504 plan?
504 plans fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is the part of the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against public school students with disabilities,which includes students with learning and attention issues (among other concerns). The goal is to “remove barriers” to learning. Students with a 504 plan usually spend the entire school day in a general education classroom.
Who qualifies for a 504 plan? Anyone who…
- Has a physical or mental impairment that “substantially” limits one or more major life activity (like reading or concentrating).
- Has a record of the impairment. (i.e., formal diagnosis from a medical or mental health professional)
- Is regarded as having an impairment, or a significant difficulty that isn’t temporary.
504 plan qualifications cover a wide range of issues, including ADHD and learning disabilities. However, Section 504 doesn’t specifically list disabilities by name. Also, having a disability doesn’t automatically make a student eligible for a 504 plan. First the school has to do an evaluation to decide if a child’s disability “substantially” limits his ability to learn and participate in the classroom.
What does a 504 plan contain?
There’s no standard 504 plan required by the law like an IEP. Every school district handles it a little differently. Generally speaking, a 504 plan should include the following:
- Specific accommodations, supports or services.
- Names of the school professional that will provide each service.
- The name of the person responsible for ensuring the 504 plan is implemented.
A 504 plan may include specific instruction in your child’s classroom. It can also provide related services like speech or occupational therapy or even counseling. 504 plans are less detailed than an IEP, and do not include annual goals and other specific supports.
So, Does My Child Need an IEP or a 504?
Knowing your child needs support is a great first step. But it is far better to know what kind of support your child needs specifically and clearly. While he may need help with reading, that support can look very different depending upon his unique needs. Before the IEP’s and 504 plans are implemented, the best option a parent can consider is pursuing a psychological evaluation.
Our process is not only in-depth and specific to your child, it can greatly aid in opening the right doors to the right services for your child. The clinical reports we provide are oftentimes the basis for implementing learning accommodations (both IEPs and 504 plans) for many children in both public and private school settings.
Our clinicians specialize in psychological testing to support IEPs and 504s at our offices in Fort Collins. As school gets started, now is an excellent time to pursue a psychological evaluation for your child. We can provide clinical reports and diagnoses to you before your child falls too far behind, which will give you a head start in pursuing an IEP or 504 accommodations. Feel free to give us a call to learn how counseling could be helpful or to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.