Do you know the difference between 504 Plan, IEP, IDEA and ADA?

Understanding the differences between a 504 and an IEP, or the Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows parents to seek the services their children need in school and in college.

504 Plans

504 Plans do not require specific diagnoses, and are services that are provided through building level support.

  • 504 Plans provide building level support to assist children to bridge the gaps in their academic performance.
  • Children with 504 Plans do not have an identified disability.
  • This plan supports children with learning, attention, and anxiety issues who meet certain criteria.
  • The 504 Plan is put into place to remove barriers to learning.
  • Students stay within the general education setting and participate in the general education curriculum
  • Support personnel bring any necessary materials to the classroom and work directly with identified students.

Individualized Education Plans (IEP)

Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) require specific diagnoses, and are services provided through specialized instruction and related services.

  • An IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability that is identified under the law 
  • These identified students receive specialized instruction and related services
  • Children who require modifications to their curriculum will have an IEP, not a 504 Plan

Individual with Disabilities Act or (IDEA)

The Individual with Disabilities Act or IDEA encourages the path to success to all students in school. 

  • Under IDEA, students receive necessary modifications of their programs and curricula
  • Students are entitled to a free and appropriate education
  • Students are entitled to an appropriate educational setting
  • The school district is responsible for administrating free evaluations
  • The school district is responsible for identifying a student’s disability
  • The school district is responsible for developing an appropriate IEP
  • The school district is responsible for providing specified services 
  • Parents advocate for their children
  • The school district is responsible for medical and physical equipment 


Americans with Disabilities Act or (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA promotes access to students in college and individuals in the workforce.

  • Under ADA, students in college receive academic adjustments, not modifications
  • College students must meet academic criteria for admissions, FAPE is not guaranteed 
  • College students are responsible for providing evaluations
  • College students are responsible for providing evaluations that identify their disability
  •  College students are responsible for seeking the assistance from the Disability Service Office on Campus
  • College students are responsible to self-identify and be self-advocates by arranging academic adjustments through the Disability Services Office
  • College students are responsible for their medical and physical equipment (many colleges assist in accommodating these needs when possible)

For Parents of School Aged Children

For parents of school aged children, it is important to remember that educators, service providers, and school administrators entered the field of education to help children feel successful. Whether your children have a 504 Plan or an IEP, the home-school partnership is essential to your children’s academic and social emotional growth. By working together, your children will feel supported at school and at home, and will find strategies in which to succeed. 

For Parents of College Students

Unlike the accommodation process that parents come to understand when their children are in school through 504 Plans and IEP’s, accommodations in college are a shared responsibility between students and faculty. In college, your students need to self-advocate and finds ways to feel supported through the Disability Service Office, the academic support centers, and their professors. It is through these avenues, that your college children will find strategies in which to succeed. 

Tips to Help Parents to Partner with Their Schools

For parents who want tips on that will help develop a skill set to effectively partner with their child’s school, click on the following link. Bridging the home-school gap is crucial for a successful school experience.

By creating an open line of communication through learning how to prepare for parent-teacher meetings, building working relationships, and acquiring an understanding of educational terminology, parents will be able to create an ongoing dialogue to help their children reach their full potential.

Whether your child has a 504 Plan or an IEP or is a student benefiting from the IDEA or the ADA, parents need to know the differences between each one in order to seek the services their children need in school and in college. 

This topic can be explored further in The ABCs of Learning Issues, written by educational expert Dana Stahl, M.Ed. who has a history of being learning disabled and became a learning specialist to assist children with learning issues find compensatory strategies to reach their social-emotional and academic potential. Her practice, Educational Alternatives LLC, focuses on educational advise, advocacy and school placements. 

The ABCs of Learning Issues, which has won the NAPPA and Parent Teacher Choice Awards, is a practical guide for parents and service providers to help them further understands their children’s learning, attention and anxiety issues. The book bridges the home-school gap by demystifying areas of concerns and captures how parents and educators can work together guiding children to reach their full potential.

The ABCs of Learning Issues is available in English and Spanish on Amazon.