If you are the parent, guardian, or caregiver of a child with developmental disabilities, you can feel like talking to educators or medical professionals is full of words and jargon you have to learn on the fly. It doesn’t take too long to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and even as you learn how to “talk the talk”, you may still feel like you don’t know the full story about the language you are now speaking. 

At Express Yourself Therapy, we don’t just see our role as exclusively with our child clients. In fact, we encourage family members and caregivers to join in during therapy sessions. Family members, caregivers, and guardians are a crucial component of the care team! In order to keep you feeling as educated as possible, we wanted to provide you a quick rundown of a common question we hear often in our offices: what’s the difference between an IEP and a 504?

What is an IEP?

An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, includes the services a child receives while at school or other learning environments. IEPs are essentially a map tailormade for each individual child and should include interventions and services that are important to and for the child. In Illinois, IEPs are developed and maintained with a team approach that includes teachers, therapists, and parents (or primary caregivers). 

Fortunately, an IEP is not meant to be designed once and never revisited again. After all, children grow and change, and services or interventions should reflect that. IEPs should always be evolving, and there should be formal meetings throughout the year for the team and parents to connect about the program.

What is a 504?

You may have heard the term “504” or “504 plan” and wondered if it is the same as an IEP. A 504 plan actually refers to a specific section (section 504) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding discrimination. A 504 plan establishes the right to fully access school services. In order to have a 504 plan, the student must be between the age of 3 and 22 and have a disability that a doctor has evaluated and defined as a mental or physical impairment that limits daily life activities.

A 504 plan is tailored for the student, but it does not necessarily need to be a formal written document. It is sometimes referred to as a “blueprint” and used to guide school staff to assure accommodations to the environment is suited for the student.

Express Yourself Therapy Collaboration

If your child currently works with us at Express Yourself Therapy, we want to be sure we are able to collaborate with their support team at their school. Our therapists know your child well and can advocate for them (and assist you to communicate with school staff) through phone meetings, emails, or in-person support. Let’s talk more about it during your next session.

If your child is not currently working with the experts at Express Yourself Therapy, now is a great time to get to know us! Our therapists and support staff are ready to assist your child in developing social skills while working on physical challenges like balance, coordination, or mobility. We love meeting new families and welcoming you into our sessions.

Call us today to talk more!