Guest Post By: Erin N. King, Ed.S, Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Parents of children with ADHD
are often faced with the frustration of seeing their child struggle in school despite his or her ability level. They often wonder what they need to do to ensure their child gets the most support from the school. Terms such as 504 Plan, IEP, and OHI are suddenly thrown into the mix. It can be confusing for a parent to know which route to pursue. Before anything, it would be important for parents to understand what a 504 Plan and an IEP are. In a broad sense, they are both detailed plans, created by the school and parents to outline how a student with a disability will learn. A 504 Plan and an IEP are both intended to protect a student with a disability to ensure that they are learning in the least restrictive environment.
The Differences Between a 504 Plan and an IEP
A 504 Plan and an IEP are not the same. One of the differences is the way in which a student qualifies for services under each plan. It is more difficult to qualify for special education services
and receive an IEP. A student must meet criteria under one of the categories of special education. A student can have a disability, yet not qualify for special education services. To qualify for a 504 Plan, a student must have a disability that is affecting a major life function. Unlike an IEP, a “major life function” does not have to be educational impact. A student can be doing well academically, but need behavioral or organizational skills accommodations due to symptoms of ADHD. With either plan, a direct connection must be made from the disability to the impairment in school. For example, a student who struggles in writing and has ADHD, would not automatically qualify for a 504 Plan. One would have to prove that the writing problems are a direct result of the ADHD.
When is a 504 Plan a better option?
A 504 Plan is a better option when the student is able to function well in a regular education environment with accommodations. The 504 is generally less restrictive than the IEP, and it is also less stigmatizing. Accommodations tend to occur in the general education curriculum.
Cons of the 504 Plan:
· Schools sometimes do not take the accommodations as seriously and reminders are often necessary (even though this should not be the case.)
· There are less services available to the child through a 504 Plan.
· The 504 Plan may not be as detailed as the IEP.
When is an IEP the better option?
An IEP is a better option for students with a disability that is adversely impacting education. Students who need more than just accommodations to regular education would need an IEP. These students are significantly struggling academically due to ADHD. Eligibility in Special Education opens the door to a variety of services.
Cons to the IEP:
· Unfortunately, it is more stigmatizing than the 504 Plan.
The process to determine eligibility
for an IEP can be very long.
If you are a parent wondering, which is better, a 504 Plan or an IEP you will have to carefully consider your child’s unique needs and work closely with the school. Parents should look carefully at both options before pursuing one over the other. Additionally, be prepared to recognize that your child may or may not qualify for special education
Erin King is a Nationally-Certified School Psychologist in Virginia. She is also the author of the website www.schoolpsychologistfiles.com and the blog www.schoolpsychologistfiles.blogspot.com.
Related posts: 504 plan, adhd and school, classroom accommodations, headline, NEWLY DIAGNOSED, special education (IEP)