504 Plan vs IEP - What is the difference

504 Plan vs IEP - What is the difference

504 Plan vs IEP – What is the Difference

504 plan vs IEP? Do you know the difference? Do you know which one is best for your child?

Don’t worry if you don’t. A lot of parents don’t really know the difference between a 504 plan vs an IEP.

And that is the reason I wanted to write this blog article…to be a resource for parents to help clear the fog a little on the difference between a 504 plan and IEP. I wanted to put together the best blog post possible that would just blow the socks off of anyone and everyone that read the post.

So I went online to check out the other videos and blog posts out on the world wide web. What I found was that the good folks at www.Understood.com created a pretty darn good video that explains the difference between a 504 plan and IEP. I mean they pretty much stole my idea 2 years before I even thought of it…lol.

In fact, Understood is an excellent resource with a ton of information about the special education world. They did an excellent and thorough video about the differences of the 504 plan and IEP. I would only add a few more things (you can see my 2 cents below the video) but you should go ahead and check it out…


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In this video Amanda clearly states the difference between a 504 plan vs an IEP…

An IEP is governed by a special education law and a 504 plan is governed by a civil rights law.

With an IEP a student needs specialized instruction and with a 504 plan a student needs accommodations or modifications to his general education program.

At 1 minute and 51 seconds of the video, Amanda says “Truth of the matter is that a 504 plan or an IEP can meet your child’s needs. It just depends on how well it’s put together. A well written, well implemented plan that everyone knows what is going to be happening and in place and is working on it…can be very helpful  for a child that doesn’t need that specialized instruction…”

I would add…well written is extremely important but even more importantly is a well implemented 504 plan or IEP.

Did you notice the emphasis on implemented?

In my experience some general education teachers do not even read the IEP or 504 plan despite the case manager’s best efforts…so even though the IEP or 504 team put together an excellent plan, it falls short because it’s not implemented by everyone that’s involved in your child’s education.

Now if you ever have any issues or questions about the implementation of either the 504 plan or IEP…you have to understand another difference between the two programs. They are governed by two different bodies. The principle of the school is generally the lead on a 504 plan and is heavily involved with the development of the plan and implementation. Sometimes, a general education staff member will serve as the team lead for 504 plans, but is governed by the principal. For the development of an IEP, the principle is not the lead. Generally the district special education department, and more specifically, the special education case manager who is governed by the special education department, takes the lead and is responsible for the implementation of all aspects of the IEP.

So if you ever have questions about the implementation of the 504 plan or IEP…best practice would be to direct your questions to the principle if your child has a 504 plan and to the special education case manager or program specialist if your child has an IEP.

If you feel your child needs help and is not currently on a 504 Plan or an IEP, reach out to your school principle and request to have a “Student Study Team” or SST meeting. This is one of the first steps your school can take to determine if your child needs an 504 plan or an IEP.

Still have questions or are not sure of what to do next? Schedule a FREE 30 min strategy call to discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have. Click here to schedule your Free call.


Thanks for reading my blog. I hope this was helpful!

SPEDSA – Special Education Services and Advocacy
Founder and Advocate