Students with learning differences are ensured a free public education and related services under the federal Individuals with Disabilites Education Act (IDEA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 'Equity, accountability and excellence in education for children with disabilities' at no cost to the parents are mandated. Under this legislation, Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are designed to meet the unique learning needs of those age three through 21 who are eligible for services and accommodations.
While both plans are administered through the student's school district, there are differences. Categories of eligibility for which the student may qualify for a 504 plan are generally more inclusive than those for an IEP. Some students meet criteria overlapping both plans.
Parents of students with learning differences are advised to keep records of the student’s school performance, medical and behavioral specialists’ evaluations, meetings with teachers and other school representatives, as well as records of IEP/504 plan accommodations made on behalf of the student. Such documentation will be needed for ongoing assessment of accommodations, when transferring from one school to another, and when applying to a college for accommodations.
While IEPs no longer cover students once they have graduated from high school, accommodations under 504 plans continue to benefit the student in college.
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