What’s the difference between a Special Education Plan and a 504 Plan?
Well, first let’s get definitions in place. The “504” refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or post-secondary schooling.
504 Plans are put in place to make sure that students with “disabilities” that affect one major life area are able to participate in school. Disabilities in this context can include:
- physical impairments
- illnesses or injuries
- communicable diseases
- chronic conditions like allergies or diabetes
- learning problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
A 504 Plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for the student to have an opportunity to perform at the same levels as their peers, and might include things such as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, an extra set of textbooks, or a keyboard for taking notes.
It’s useful to work with an education law attorney for several reasons. You will want someone highly knowledgeable with whom to discuss these issues confidentially. An attorney can help you get clear on which issues are legal and which are not. And it might be helpful to develop a relationship with an attorney whom you can call going forward. A child with 504 Plan or a Special Needs Plan has needs that change depending where they are in their education. A high school student, for example, will have different issues than a primary school student. A good education law attorney can work with you as needed throughout your child’s school journey.
504 Plans are not Special Education Plans. In fact, this is one of the major distinctions between 504 Plans and Special Education Plans. Students with 504 Plans do not need special instruction in order to access school; rather they only need certain accommodations to allow them to participate in the school setting and activities.
Special education, on the other hand, is specially designed instruction that is individualized based on an evaluation that determines whether or not your child qualifies for Special Education.
There are areas of qualification for Special Education. You can check here for information about Special Education qualifications.
A special education evaluation is intended to be comprehensive. The purpose of Special Education is to create a plan to help students be able to learn and graduate.