504 Plans vs. IEPs: What's the Difference?

Mar 06, 2023

When it comes to special education services, parents often encounter terms like "504 Plan" and "Individualized Education Program (IEP)," but understanding the differences between these two can be confusing. This blog post aims to clarify these terms and help you decide which is the most appropriate for your child's educational needs.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 Plan is a legal document falling under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is designed to provide accommodations and modifications to students with disabilities in a general education setting. Unlike an IEP, a 504 Plan does not require the school to provide specialized educational services.

What is an IEP?

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document created under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is more comprehensive than a 504 Plan and involves specialized educational services tailored to a child's unique needs.

Key Differences


  • 504 Plan: Broader eligibility criteria, covering any disability that impacts a major life activity.
  • IEP: More specific eligibility, requiring a disability that affects educational performance.

Services and Accommodations

  • 504 Plan: Provides accommodations but not specialized educational services.
  • IEP: Offers both accommodations and specialized services, like speech therapy or occupational therapy.

Legal Protections

  • 504 Plan: Less stringent legal protections compared to an IEP.
  • IEP: Stronger legal protections, including specific due process rights for parents.

Team Involvement

  • 504 Plan: Typically involves fewer team members in the planning process.
  • IEP: Requires a multidisciplinary team, including parents, teachers, and specialists.

Which is Right for Your Child?

Choosing between a 504 Plan and an IEP depends on your child's specific needs:

  • If your child needs minor accommodations to succeed in a general education setting, a 504 Plan may suffice.
  • If your child requires specialized educational services, an IEP is likely the better choice.

How Community Law Office Can Help

Understanding the nuances between 504 Plans and IEPs can be challenging, but you don't have to navigate this alone. At Community Law Office, we specialize in special education law and can guide you in making the best choice for your child's educational future.

Don't let confusion over educational plans hinder your child's progress. Schedule a consultation with Community Law Office today to discuss your options and develop a strategy tailored to your child's needs.