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Does an IEP Hold the School More Accountable Than a 504?

September 18th, 2009

I received an email today where a parent stated “I think that if you have a choice that you should definitely do the IEP because it make the school more accountable and you have to be included in the review.”

Actually, both a 504 and an IEP are legal documents and must be complied with, and as a parent you must be involved in either meeting and you need to sign off on the plan. Since they are both legal documents, both 504’s and IEP’s hold the schools accountable.

An IEP is more encompassing than a 504 plan. If your child is under an IEP, in addition to specific measurable goals and extra services with a specialist, there are usually specific accommodations written regarding the child’s time spent within their regular classroom. These are things like extra time to do the assignment, modified assignments, planners, or recording answers to tests on tape recorders if writing is a problem. In effect, the accommodations that are written into an IEP are what a 504 plan would have. (The IEP should have anything in it they would put in a 504 plan + the goals and time with a resource specialist or other service provider).

A 504 is typically used for students that do not qualify for an IEP because there is no significant discrepancy between the IQ and performance of the student, BUT the student is struggling in the classroom.

The following paragraph is an excerpt from the book From Emotions to Advocacy, written by Pam Wright and Pete Wright

To be eligible for protections under Section 504, the child must have a physical or mental impairment. This impairment must substantially limit at least one major life activity. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, writing, performing math calculations, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks. The key is whether the child has an “impairment” that “substantially limits … one or more … major life activities.”

I usually suggest to parents that they not sign off on the plan at that meeting and say something to the effect, “we’ve talked about a lot of details today, it is a lot to absorb. I would like to go over them with my husband/spouse/ significant other or if you are both there – we need to go over them and review them.”

You may see some ‘jaws’ drop, but this will help you to be sure you are getting what you need. This does give you time to really look over the document and be sure it contains everything you need for your child. And, sometimes you realize you really need an additional service. Sometimes the additional service or accommodation is added without a problem because the school needs to get the IEP or 504 completed in a timely manner.

To help you have a better understanding of your child’s difficulties and the underlying causes of them, you will want to use a parent friendly informal LD dyslexia assessment tool.

Hope this is helpful.

Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET

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