How does a 504 Plan Differ
from an IEP for Students with Autism or Asperger's
Your child may have an IEP
(individualized education program) or a "504
plan" to help them in school. Let's face it,
most children with autism or Asperger's
syndrome can use some extra help to ensure
they make it through school. But how
does an IEP differ from a 504 plan? Are they
Like the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 (Section 504) provides protection
and services to school children with disabilities.
Section 504 is a civil rights statute. It prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability in
any program or activity that receives federal
financial assistance — including public schools.
Basically, Section 504 tries to level the
playing field and ensure that your child has
equal access and ability to participate in activities
the same as a child with no disability.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office
for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504.
An IEP, which is specified in the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is much
more focused on education. Students who are
eligible to have an IEP, or Individualized Education
Plan, tend to be only a subset of all students
with disabilities...in other words, just because
your student has a disability does not mean
they qualify for an IEP.
Who Gets and IEP?
To get an IEP, students need to be seen as
needing significant additional help to level
the playing field. They may require remediation
or additional assistance and are more likely
to work on their own and at their own pace even
if they are mainstreamed in inclusive classrooms.
The IDEA specifies certain classifications
of disabilities as qualifying to have an IEP.
If a student does NOT qualify for an IEP because
they do not meet the classifications of the
IDEA but they still require assistance to be
able to fully participate in school activities
then they will be candidates for a 504 Plan.
If your child is found ineligible for
services under the IDEA, always ask the
evaluation team to consider whether she
may be eligible for services under Section
504. IDEA evaluation teams should automatically
consider these options, but often do not.
Similarly, just because your child has never
been evaluated for IDEA services, doesn’t
mean she shouldn’t be considered for Section
What students are covered by Section
To be eligible under Section 504, a
- have a physical or mental impairment
(permanent or temporary) that
substantially limits one or more major
- have a record of such an impairment;
- be regarded as having such an
Section 504 regulations define a physical
or mental impairment as:
any physiological disorder or
condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or
anatomical loss affecting one or more of
the following body systems:
neurological; musculoskeletal; special
sense organs; respiratory, including
speech organs; cardiovascular;
reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary;
hemic and lymphatic; skin; and
endocrine; or any mental or
psychological disorder, such as mental
retardation, organic brain syndrome,
emotional or mental illness, and
specific learning disabilities.
What if my child has been evaluated
already under the IDEA?
If your child already has been properly
evaluated for eligibility under the IDEA,
that evaluation process meets the evaluation
requirements under Section 504 and,
generally, no further evaluation to
determine eligibility under Section 504
should be necessary. If your school has a
separate process, that process must follow
the requirements for evaluating the needs of
students under Section 504.
Click here to go to the governments website
Americans with Disabilities Act [www.ada.gov]
And my book, Asperger's Syndrome Guide
for Teens and Young Adults school issues
are covered extensively and there is a special
report "A Guide to the Individualized Education
Program" which many parents find very helpful.
These are "must read" materials for parents
helping their children navigate the challenges
of Asperger's syndrome.
||My book, the Asperger's Syndrome
Guide for Teens and Young Adults
discusses bullying, anxiety, depression
and what to do about it.
For more information click here