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difference btwn 504 and IEP

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my ds has been in public school for 2 years -- entered with me giving info about PANDAS, has a medical diagnosis for PANDAS, psych diagnosis for Anxiety -- last year, immediately started proceeding for 504 but unfortunately, school personnel didn't understand him, i gave too much info so they thought it was some condition from outer space that only i understood, i ended up in the school basically working as his aide - all fell apart in a flaming disaster and he ended up on home teaching for 7 months. this year, is wonderful - great school with great personnel - they understand him and he is doing well. he does currently have a 504.



however, i have not understood these basic facts about the differences btwn 504 and IEP until last night at a SPED citizens group where the County 504 Resource teacher spoke. I see it now in the 504 handbook, i see it in a post from Oct 2011 that i asked differences here and got extensive answers from wise friends here. BUT, i don't have any previous experience with SPED and when these words - such as "accommodation" were used, I didn't get it until last night, where she used more pointed language, so it made more sense.


So - i want to share in case anyone else doesn't get it also---



  • 504 and IEP are administered under different laws -- IEP is IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - ensuring services and interventions - with the goal of remeditation; 504 is the Rehabitilitation Act of 1973 - a civil rights law protecting against discrimination-- it's purpose is to protect individuals from discrimination based on the disability and provide equal access to programs -- NOT remediation
  • special ed provides remedial instruction to address deficits that are educationally impacting students; 504 provides equal access to 'even the playing field' for those who have a substantial limitation -- as in spec ed would help you learn how to better use your legs or crutches to walk; 504 would provide you a ramp to get into the building
  • 504 is NOT a mini-IEP; a door prize that you get to help b/c you don't qualify for IEP, nor a 'step-down' IEP -- it's focus is on accommodation - providing a way for you to live with the impairment, NOT on improvement



I think my disconnect has been with the definition of the word accommodation. i have no background in education nor laws concerning civil rights. so, when we were discussing my 7 year old, i guess i just naturally thought we were talking about how best to help him LEARN and adapt, so it never even occurred to me that the word accommodation was not referring to seeing his struggle and helping him learn how to overcome it -- it means seeing his struggle and providing a way that it is not such a struggle, but assuming it will always be there.


So, it IS written in the literature and the people developing the plan use the word accommodation -- i just didn't realize i wasn't on the same page as to what that meant.

Edited by smartyjones
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This is incredibly enlightening! My son is in the beginning stages of being diagnosed with pandas, he has been out of school for 4 months. School did an iep and he didnt qualify for any resources because he only had anxiety, no learning disabilities. We visited with superintendent yesterday and he said if I have documentation from doctor we could apply for 504. This helped me make sense of that. Thank you

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I teach Special Education. Here is an additional view... 504 helps to access the grade level curriculum and accommodate the needs of that child to learn the materials/lessons for that grade level. An IEP is thought of as more of a modification and that child is working on their own I=Individual, E=Educational, P=Plan. So an IEP could be more for a child that is not ready for that grade level material, so the curriculum might be modified, however with a 504 you would give the grade level lesson but may accommodate the way is is taught or evaluated. Example may be a 3rd grader would have an IEP for math that may have them learning to add because they are not ready to learn multiplication like the rest of the class. A 504 would have the student learning multiplication with the rest of the class but may accommodate as in allow for reduced amount of problems, or extra time to complete the assignment or allow for extra bathroom breaks. A child with an IEP will have accommodations as well as modifications but a child with a 504 will most likely have accommodations to access the regular education curriculum.

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Many children have dysgraphia (deterioration of handwriting) during exacerbation's. Our kids need an OT for fine motor skills.

Also there is a great deal of time when many PANDAS kids have short term memory problems, cognitive processing issues, deterioration in math and or science skills. My DS8 even has visual distortions which really become apparent during a flare.

These are all learning issues and really should be addressed with an IEP. Additionally an emotional support person should be assigned to help get our children through the anxiety and panic attacks that can flare.

Our school tried to offer a 504 to us as well. I read it very carefully and refused requesting mediation. It was not an easy accomplishment but our DS8 now has an IEP and I have far more control over his education than before. There is hope. I suggest a book called from Emotions to Advocacy from Wright's Law. It will help you understand and negotiate the Special Education system and the legal part.

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Smarty --


I really appreciate that explanation and the language choices, especially, because I think there are nuances here that, sometimes, even a school's SPED staff does not fully grasp. Not to mention, we've been through both the 504 and IEP process now, and that's the first time anyone's ever spelled it out that way for me!


I'll add, too, that one of the reasons we decided to go for an IEP at my DS's Exacerbation To End All Exacerbations, during 7th grade, was because, unlike the 504, the IEP gave him access to school personnel, people on site, who's jobs it was to help him navigate the challenges he was facing while the anxiety and OCD were at their height. So, for the first time, he had a case manager who was wholly invested in helping him get through a difficult school day. And he got weekly sessions with both a school social worker and a school psychologist which, in addition to giving him an opportunity to sort out and receive support for things that might happen during the average school day, offered him yet two more people on campus with whom he built strong, positive relationships and mutual trust.


Obviously, I'm very pro-IEP, maybe especially for older kids who, even without PANDAS, are likely contending with increasing pressures and challenges in the academic environment given the increase in hormones, social pressures, heftier academic expectations, etc. The 504 and what it had to offer served my DS well through grammar school, but middle school and high school have been whole other worlds! <_<

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It probably depends on what state you are in as to what is offered. We don't have school pycologists or social workers on campus and 3 Sp Ed teachers to meet the needs of 40+ kids with autism, ID (MR), LD, ED, dyslexia, OHI, ADD....


Even though I teach Sp Ed I am realistic to know that in his worst flare, if I could not keep him from walking with his face against the wall at home, what was the teacher going to be able to do? In a flare up, some of our kids require way more than what a 20+ year old would have been prepared for in teaching school. My DS is doing K 12, he just doesn't really fit into any program offered.

Edited by 3boysmom
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