Eligible Pennsylvania students are entitled to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Even though all children learn differently, most students’ learning needs can largely be met in the regular classroom without support. Some children, however, have learning needs that are significant enough that they require an IEP, or individualized educational plan.
Public school districts are required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to develop an IEP for every child who qualifies. The lawyers at Jacobson & John LLP, The Education Lawyers, can help ensure that students and their families receive all of the services to which they are entitled.
Who Qualifies for an IEP?
The law specifies 13 disability categories that qualify a child for an IEP:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impaired
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
What is a 504 plan? How does it differ from an IEP?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was one of the first federal laws passed to protect the civil rights of the disabled. A student may be eligible under Section 504 if he or she 1) has a record of having, or is regarded as having a disability that 2) interferes with a major life activity, such as learning. Although largely a discrimination statute, Section 504, much like the IDEA, requires schools to provide eligible students with disabilities with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). In order to ensure that eligible students receive FAPE under Section 504, schools must develop 504 plans (also called 504 service agreements) that articulate specific accommodations that will be provided to the child as part of his or her educational program.
While 504 plans are similar to IEPs in that they both provide a written description of the educational supports that will be provided to an eligible student, they differ in that generally a 504 plan concerns only accommodations to be made for a student “to level the playing field” in the educational environment, as opposed to modifications to actual instruction.
Conversely, while an IEP may include accommodations as well, an IEP will always contain specially designed instruction and could affect instructional content.