Difference Between a 504 Plan and IEP in Arizona? | IEPs and 504 Plans
What are the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan in Arizona? These terms get used a lot by educators and school systems. And sometimes parents don’t know that they’re different documents and that they mean different things, and they grant different accommodations or specialized education. So, I’m going to break down the main differences between a 504 plan and an IEP. The major differences are who qualifies for them. And then, what type of accommodations or specialized education do you receive with both documents?
What is a 504 Plan in Arizona?
So, starting off with the 504 plan. The 504 plan is codified in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which grants civil rights to people who may have a disability. And there are disabilities that impair them in the classroom, so there may be accommodations needed. Now, a 504 plan does not give a specific definition of what is considered a disability to grant a 504 plan. An IEP does.
Is your Child Eligible for a 504 Plan?
So, a 504 plan is just really anybody who has a disability and needs support. Also, a 504 plan covers anyone, K-12, and then also in the college setting or university, and IEP stops at grade 12. Those are the main differences. It’s easier to qualify for a 504 plan than it is for an IEP when it comes to a specific sort of disability.
Scope of a 504 Plan
Also, the 504 plan is only going to address accommodations. It does not address specialized education or instruction. So, a 504 plan might look like students being able to take medication at school, certain technology that’s granted to them, maybe changes to their environment, more time on a test, or being able to be in a quiet room by yourself if you’re taking an exam. Things like that are going to be more of a 504 plan. It’s just an accommodation, it’s written on a document. That’s how it is. They’re easier to get and the process is a little bit quicker. However, you’re just getting those accommodations.
What is an IEP in Arizona?
Now, with an IEP, this is when you’re going to get that specialized education. So, you’re going to be pulled out for your child for special education. Although in an IEP, you might also get those same exact accommodations. So, let’s talk about an IEP. An IEP is codified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And what that is, is it grants people who have a specified disability, and there’s a list of 13 categories and your student must qualify under one of those categories. And they will have an actual plan, a legally binding document.
How IEP Works
An IEP is going to give goals for your student to achieve, and how they’re going to get there. This is when we’re talking about accommodations, testing, progress monitoring, all of that. You’re going to meet annually to check those goals to make sure that you’re reaching or you’re on the right track.
Categories of Disabilities
And then every three years, the student will then need to be reevaluated to see if they’re still eligible for the IEP. The IEP, as I said, you do have to have one of the 13 categories of disabilities. And those are anywhere from:
- Emotional disorders
- specific learning disabilities
- Speech or Language
- Visual Impairment,
- and traumatic brain injury.
Those are the basic list and the categories, and your student must qualify underneath one of those categories. If they don’t, they would not receive an IEP. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t get a 504 plan, because a 504 disability is defined in a much broader term to qualify for it. So, those are the main differences.
In 504, more people are likely to be eligible for it, and it only covers accommodations. In an IEP, you must hit one of those 13 categories of disabilities to be eligible for it, but you get accommodations and specialized education instruction.
Other Blogs of Interest
Arizona Individual Education Program: How Arizona IEP Attorney Can Help
Statistics in 2016 showed that more than 53,000 students in Arizona had specific learning disabilities. Such students must be subjected to the Individualized Education Program (IEP). This form of special education has been designed to assist Arizona students with various learning disabilities. It’s also essential to communicate that this program has been prevalent in the country for many years.
If you believe that your child needs special education, it’s essential to consider taking them for an Individualized Education Program. However, for this system to work for your child, they must meet a few fundamental requirements. Understanding some unique factors behind IEP will enable you to seek this program for your child seamlessly.
Is AZ IEP Free?
You might have a perception that education is expensive. However, the good news is that IEP is a free program in Arizona. The federal and state government have put in place adequate measures to ensure that all children with disabilities can access this form of education at no cost. However, this does not mean that the program is entirely free. Families must pay for some costs associated with IEP, such as travel expenses, books, and other materials.
How Do I Get an IEP For My Child in Arizona?
As a parent or guardian, you can request an IEP evaluation for your child if you think they might need special education services. You can make this request to the school district in which your child attends school. The school district must evaluate whether your child is eligible for special education services.
If the school district determines that your child is eligible for special education services, they will develop an IEP for your child. The IEP is a document that outlines the special education services that your child will receive.
What Are the Components of An IEP In Arizona?
The components of an IEP vary from state to state. However, in general, an IEP must include:
- A statement of the child’s present level of educational performance
- A description of the child’s special education and related services
- Annual goals for the child’s educational progress
- A description of how the child’s progress will be measured
- The date by which the IEP will be reviewed and revised, if necessary
It’s essential to understand that an IEP is a living document that can be revised. As your child’s needs change, the IEP can be revised to address those changes.
What Is the Arizona IEP Timeline?
As a parent with a child in the Arizona IEP process, it’s essential to understand the timeline for each process step. This timeline can vary depending on your child’s individual needs and the school district in which you live. However, in general, the Arizona IEP timeline looks like this:
- The parent requests an IEP evaluation from the school district
- The School district evaluates the child to determine if they are eligible for special education services
- If the child is eligible for special education services, the school district develops an IEP
What is a 504 Plan?
In general, a 504 plan refers to a document created for students with disabilities to ensure they have access to an equal education opportunity like their counterparts. The plan is usually developed by a team of professionals who understand the student’s specific disability and how it affects their learning.
The same case applies to Arizona. Here, the 504 Plan is usually developed for a student with a disability that limits their ability to participate in or benefit from educational programs. According to the US Department of Education, a 504 plan must be designed in consideration of the following factors:
1. Student’s Needs
The student’s needs should be considered when coming up with the 504 Plan. The plan should, therefore, be comprehensive enough to address all the areas where the student is struggling. The plan should not include anything that does not address the student’s needs.
2. Evaluation Data
When developing a 504 Plan, the team should use all the available data to ensure that it captures all the areas where the student is struggling. This might include information from previous teachers, parents, and other students. The ultimate objective is to ensure that the plan is as comprehensive as possible.
3. Least Restrictive Environment
When developing a 504 Plan, the team should never forget that the objective is to ensure that the student remains in the least restrictive environment. This means the plan should not be too restrictive to prevent students from accessing educational opportunities. The ultimate objective is to enable the student to learn alongside their counterparts.
4. Parent and Student Involvement
When developing a 504 Plan, it’s crucial to ensure that both the parent and the student are involved in the process. This is because they’re the ones who understand the student’s needs better. Besides involving them in the development process, it’s also vital to ensure they know the plan and how it’s supposed to help the student.
How Do I Get a 504 Plan in Arizona?
How does one get a 504 plan for their student in Arizona? A 504 plan is different from an IEP. And one major difference is how you go about getting a 504 plan. So, a 504 plan is for students K-12 and even in some public university settings as well.
Who Can Apply? Parents or Teachers
To get a 504 plan, a parent or guardian is likely the person to initiate the process. I always recommend, with a 504-plan giving written notice to the school that you would like for your student to be evaluated for a 504 plan. Teachers can also initiate this but it’s a little bit rare, it’s normally a parent. So, I always just say, put it in writing, and send it to the school.
Difference Between IEP and 504 Plan Requirements
Now, a 504 plan does not have the same time requirements as an IEP. You can check out my blog on how to get an IEP for your child. But once the parent initiates the process for an IEP, the clock starts ticking, and the school has specific time periods that they must adhere to for your student to receive the IEP. A 504 plan does not have that. So, sometimes parents really must keep reaching out, advocating for their students, and pushing for that. Now, once you give written notice that you like for your child to be evaluated for a 504 plan, the school must do some type of evaluation.
Now, the purpose of the evaluation is to collect data to assess the student. If the school already has enough data, teacher’s observation, parent observation, if they’re already going to different types of therapy or medical health providers, and they’re all providing data, an additional evaluation may not be needed. So, that process would be, that the 504 team would decide if an additional evaluation would need to happen. And once that evaluation has taken place where they feel like there’s already enough data, then they’ll decide if the student is eligible for a 504 plan. Again, a 504 plan is different from an IEP. In an IEP, you need a specific category of disabilities to qualify. For a 504 plan, that’s not the case.
Who Can Qualify?
The standard is that the student must be physically or mentally impaired, substantially that it limits major life activities. So, if that’s the standard that they’re looking at, it can be physical, it can be mental, but it must substantially impair them. If that is found, then the 504 plan will be written. And it will address accommodation for the students.
Accommodations for 504 Plan Students
It’s typically going to look like some sort of accommodations within the general education setting. This may mean students receiving specific services from the school such as therapy, or more commonly, it’s going to be like exams and instruction. So, a student may be able to leave the classroom and go to a quiet area to take an exam or they’re given an extended period to take an exam or the exam might be read out loud to that student.
Those are all common accommodations in a 504 plan. And then once the 504 plan is in place, periodically, evaluations will need to take place. And the school is responsible for setting those parameters and policies. So, again, just to summarize, for a student to get a 504 plan, the parent or guardian can initiate the process. They’ll have an evaluation to determine if they’re eligible, they’ll write the plan with the accommodations, and then a periodic review or evaluation will happen.
What Should Be Included in a 504 Plan?
The 504 Plan should be designed to address the student’s specific needs. It should, therefore, be as comprehensive as possible. Some of the things that might be included in the plan are:
- A description of the student’s disability
- A description of the student’s current educational status
- The student’s academic goals
- The accommodations that will be put in place to help the student achieve their goals
- The resources that will be used to support the student
- The people who will be responsible for implementing the plan
- The timeline for implementing the plan
- The evaluation process that will be used to determine whether the plan is working
What Services Are Available Under a 504 Plan in Arizona?
The services available under a 504 Plan in Arizona vary from student to student. This is because the plan is supposed to be designed specifically for the student’s needs. However, some essential services must be included in every 504 Plan. These include:
- Counseling Services
- Assistive Technology
- Educational Testing
- Modifications to the Curriculum
- Community-based services
What is the Role of an Arizona Educational Attorney in the 504 Plan?
If you’re interested in enrolling your child in a 504 Plan in Arizona, it’s advisable to seek the help of an experienced educational attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure your child gets the support they need.
An attorney can also help you if you feel that your child isn’t getting the necessary support under their current 504 Plan. In such a case, the attorney can help you request a review of the plan to determine whether it’s still relevant and address the student’s needs.
At Chelle Law, we have a team of experienced educational attorneys who can help you with all aspects of the 504 Plan process. We’ve assisted many families in Arizona with enrolling their children in 504 Plans, and we can help you too.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
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