504 vs IEP Infographic - What's the Difference?There seems to be a lot of confusion about IEP vs. 504 plans. While both are covered within special education, only IEPs (individualized education programs) are covered under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). IDEA is the federal law that governs how special education should work. 504s are actually covered under ADA (American Disabilities Act), which is a civil rights law.

I put together this infographic that shows the many differences between IEP vs. 504. It’s actually an excerpt from Chapter 40 of my book, Special Ed Mom Survival Guide. One of the key things I share in this chapter is having good knowledge of special education law. It is one of your best tools when advocating for your child!

Major differences in IEP vs. 504

The biggest difference is that IEPs have specific processes in place to ensure the school is providing the right support. These processes ensure they are following through on the support they should be providing. 504s do not have these rules so there are no safeguards to ensure that the school is providing the right support.

Oftentimes when you suggest special education to a school, they will do an evaluation. Afterwards they come back and say the child doesn’t qualify for an IEP, but they will qualify for a 504. They do this because they know it’s easier to offer a 504, and it doesn’t cost them any money. Also, there are fewer repercussions if they do not follow through on it. While it is a violation of the ADA if they do not abide by it, not following through requires the parents to file a discrimination complaint in order to get the school to comply. Not everybody is up to the task.

This is why it is really important to understand what qualifies a student for an IEP. If you have reviewed the special education law, and you feel your child should have an IEP, then you have to fight to get it. You have to build a case that shows they are eligible. If you cannot convince the school, hire a special ed advocate or lawyer so they can help you fight.

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Infographic: IEP vs. 504 - What's the Difference?

Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau is a special education advocate and educational consultant in Ventura County, California. Her goal is to help parents find strategies and solutions to help their children succeed in school and in life. Bonnie is the author of Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to Prevail in the Special Education Process and Find Life-long Strategies for You and Your Child.