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Volume 72

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How does a 504 Plan Differ from an IEP for Students with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome

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 the same?

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 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 504 services.


What students are covered by Section 504?

To be eligible under Section 504, a student must:

  • have a physical or mental impairment (permanent or temporary) that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • have a record of such an impairment; or
  • be regarded as having such an impairment.

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.

More information

Click here to go to the governments website Americans with Disabilities Act []

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

Learn from the advice of hundreds of other moms and dads how to help your son or daughter ...


Make and keep friends


Prevent meltdowns


Be happy and lead a fulfilling life


Do well in school


Understand therapy options and much more.

Go to for additional information and to purchase books.


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Thank you,

Craig Kendall, Author