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Getting a 504 Plan

Getting a 504 Plan
IEP   PDF   |   Eligibility for an IEP   |  Accommodations  

Eligibility is determined by Assessment

If a student has a disability, learning disability, or attention issues a school can either issue an IEP or a 504 plan. In general, an IEP is more comprehensive for the student and staff and generally used when a disability presents more of a challenge to learning. A 504 plan can be used for students that do not require as much intervention, but that would still benefit from accommodations, support, or services. To view a sample 504 plan for ADHD, click here.

Whereas an IEP is a comprehensive, written document, a 504 plan does not have to be a written document. A 504 plan for a student typically includes:

  • The person(s) responsible for services
  • The person(s) responsible for implementing the 504 plan
  • Accommodations, supports, or services

How a Neuropsychological Assessment can Help

While a teacher might be able to identify a learning or attention issue, a neuropsychological assessment is the best way to identify the underlying cause, and therefore the best way to address it. For example, if a student is falling behind in reading, there could be several causes. An assessment can determine whether the student has dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, NVLD, or a processing disorder - all of which can cause problems with reading. Once the underlying neurological process that is causing the symptoms is determined, customized treatment recommendations can truly assist the student in an effective way that will allow them to thrive in and out of the classroom.

Remember that you always have a right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) in addition to what the school offers. A neuropsychological assessment is one type of IEE. Neuropsychology is the unique integration of genetic, developmental, and environmental history with testing data to better understand brain functioning. Collateral information and behavioral assessments are sought from parents, educators, doctors, and therapists when appropriate. A neuropsychologist then uses this information to create a road map of customized recommendations for therapy, treatments, educational assistance, and medications.

Other Differences Between an IEP and a 504 Plan

Overall, the IEP is more comprehensive and used for more disabling conditions. Here are some other differences between the two:

Different laws

An IEP is based on the Special Education - Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and overseen by U.S. Department of Education: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services whereas a 504 plan is based on the Civil Rights - Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and overseen by U.S. Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights

Age limits

An IEP is only offered through 12th grade, whereas a 504 plan can be used beyond high school into college and in employment.


For an IEP a child has to have one of the 13 conditions covered under the IDEA and that disability must affect their ability to learn. For a 504 plan, the child has to have a diagnosed disability that affects their ability to learn but is not restricted to the 13 specific disabilities. Because of the broader categorization of disability for the 504 plan, a student that does not qualify for an IEP could still qualify for a 504 plan.


Under an IEP, parents can ask the school to pay for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) such as a neuropsychological assessment. The district does not always have to agree to pay, however. With a 504 plan, the school never considers paying for an IEE. In either case (IEP or 504 plan), the parents always have the option to pay for an IEE themselves.


An IEP has more specific legal requirements about who is involved. The IEP team must consist of:

1. The child's parent
2. One of more of the child's general education teachers
3. One or more special education teachers
4. School specialist (such as a school psychologist)
5. A representative from the district with authority over special education

A 504 plan does not need to meet the same legal requirements. It typically consists of the child's parent, teacher(s), and the school principal.

The Plan

An IEP sets specific academic goals and describes the services the school will give. It is always a written, legal document. On the other hand, a 504 does not have to be written and does not follow a standard.


For both an IEP and a 504 plan, parent consent is required. For an IEP, written consent is required, while for a 504 plan it is considered a "best practice". If a change in services or placement occurs, the school must tell parents in writing. Written notice is also required for any IEP meetings and evaluations.


An IEP team review occurs at least once a year, with a reevaluation at three years. 504 plan rules vary by state but generally follow the same guidelines. In Utah, the 504 plan must be reviewed annually (or sooner), with a reevaluation to occur every three years to determine if the student still qualifies for a 504 plan.


For both plans, students receive services at no charge. With an IEP, the states receive additional funding per eligible students and IDEA funds can be used. For a 504 plan, there is no extra funding provided but schools and programs can have funding taken away for noncompliance.


An IEP has specific guidelines for resolving disputes, typically in this order:

1. Mediation
2. Due process complaint
3. Resolution session
4. Civil lawsuit
5. State complaint
6. Lawsuit

For a 504 plan, the following options are available:

1. Mediation
2. Alternative dispute resolution
3. Impartial hearing
4. Complaint to the Office of Civil Rights
5. Lawsuit