In a recent interview with Iowa professional learning and leadership consultant, Jennifer Peter. She explained the difference between an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and a 504b plan. Her explanation was so elegant and clear-cut, you deserve to hear it, too.
Schools are required by federal law to create IEPs for any school-aged student who has been tested and identified as needing special education assistance. IEPs are educational tools. They focus on remediating significant learning problems through instruction, not through medical treatment or physical means. Many students with IEPs have no physical disabilities.
504b plans are for students who need environmental accommodations so their physical disability won’t hinder their education. Students with disabilities requiring 504b plans may need no extra learning assistance, just some simple accomodations to remove physical barriers. Or they may need help with a physical disability or condition such as extra room for a child in a wheelchair, insulin shots for diabetics, an amplification system for a child with hearing loss, or help with a colostomy bag for a student with spina bifida.
Educational vs. Medical Diagnosis
Students with IEPs have an educational diagnosis, usually through the school system. Students with 504b plans have a medical diagnosis from a health care professional. Jennifer gave this example. “Learning disability is an educational diagnosis. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.”
Which One’s Right for Your Child?
Some students, those with both learning and medical issues, may have an IEP and a 504b plan. But if your child has learning issues, you need to pursue school testing, not a medical diagnosis. If your child has a medical condition that needs accomodation, you need a 504b plan from a doctor.
If you’re still puzzled, don’t feel bad. I taught school for 25 years and didn’t fully understand until Jenn cleared up my confusion. But if you have questions or another way to explain the difference between IEPs and 504bs, leave a comment. I’ll be glad to get back to you!
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