Individual Education Plans & 504 Accommodations
The 504 Accommodation Plan is often confused with the Individual Education Plan (IEP). While the 504 Plan asserts that students can not be discriminated against for manifestation of their disabilities, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the actual roadmap detailing how a student with a disability will receive free appropriate education. Teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) develop the IEPs.
An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual special education needs. It sets reasonable learning goals for the child and states the services that the school district will provide for the child to reach these goals. An IEP is based on state regulations that must be consistent with the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). States provide funding that partially reimburses local school districts for the cost of special education services provided by an IEP.
A 504 Plan is based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which is a Federal anti-discrimination law. Section 504 protects the rights of students with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. It requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
A major difference from an IEP is that there is no federal or state funding to reimburse school districts for the expense of services provided under a 504 Plan.
An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and a 504 Accommodation Plan are both legal documents based on federal laws. These documents are generated to assist students with disabilities who attend schools that receive federal funding. Which of these documents is the most appropriate for a student with TS is complicated by regulations that vary from state to state, inconsistent school policies, and the specific needs of the particular student. Both an IEP and 504 Plan should be based on the results of an education assessment/evaluation and the student’s needs.
Both IEPs and 504 Plans have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. There are specific guidelines regarding eligibility. A diagnosis of TS does not automatically make a child eligible for either an IEP or 504 Plan. Generally, if a student needs services that involve an additional person who provides significant support, an IEP will be written. If, however, the student needs accommodations and/or modifications that provide equal access to an education similar to that given to students without disabilities, a 504 Plan may be sufficient to meet his/her needs.
IEPs are based on detailed parameters that are regulated by state education departments. These include specific criteria regarding eligibility, individuals involved in creating an IEP, how it is to be written, and when it must be reviewed. For a child to be eligible for services under an IEP, the disability must adversely affect the student’s educational performance. TS is included in the definition of ‘Other Health Impairment’ and generally is the definition under which students with TS are classified.
504 Plans are less regulated. This sometimes allows for increased creativity, which often is helpful in meeting the unique needs of children with TS.
If the student requires accommodations or modifications such as extended time, test/quizzes in a separate location, use of computer, or homework modification, then a 504 Plan may be sufficient. However, if special education services are necessary, such as counseling, consultant teacher, resource room support, speech or occupational therapy support, then an IEP may be necessary.
Before developing an effective support plan, there are a few important factors to keep in mind:
Be prepared: The Tourette Association suggests that the education team read the article titled Understanding Behavioral Symptoms in Tourette Syndrome: TS is More than Tics prior to developing a plan. This article provides a brief overview of many of the related difficulties that are common for students with TS.
Include the Student: The student is an important part of the team and should be included in as much of the planning as possible. If the supports do not make sense or are not considered helpful to the student, then he or she probably will not use them and the plan will not be effective. Additionally, students are more likely to respect a plan that they helped to develop.
Communication is key for the following reasons:
- Communication with family members is important for developing a collaborative relationship that is essential to the success of students with TS.
- Members of the team need to communicate about the effectiveness of the plan and modify it when necessary. Any factors that might impact the student should be shared among team members. For example, medication changes may result in new or different symptoms and the team should be made aware when these changes occur.
- The team should monitor strategies to ensure they do not increase anxiety or other symptoms.
Creativity is essential in identifying strategies that might be most helpful to your student. Each student is unique and may benefit from a strategy you may never have tried, or thought to try, with this or other students. Therefore, it is important to have a discussion with the student regarding what he or she believes might be helpful. Pay close attention to his or her thoughts on why strategies may or may not help because the student’s insights can be instrumental when tweaking or developing strategies.
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