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Two Key Differences Between 504s and IEPs

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Two Key Differences Between 504s and IEPs

504s and IEPs both provide services to students that help them thrive academically. They are the difference between success and failure for many students with disabilities. 

While they both have similar goals and legal requirements, some key differences distinguish the two. Let’s take a look and see how 504s and IEPs work to support students. 


IEPs are for students who typically qualify for special education classes. IEPs are created for learning challenges that make it difficult to learn in a general education classroom and need extra support. To receive one, students must have one of 13 specific disabilities. 

504s are for students who don’t qualify for special education but still need some accommodations. These plans cover any disability that hinders them from learning in a general education classroom. 

Example: Ana has a severe food allergy to eggs. She has an anaphylactic reaction whenever she encounters eggs. Ana’s allergy does not hinder her from learning in a general education classroom and is not one of the 13 disabilities that qualify for an IEP. Ana receives a 504 plan that states there will be no food allowed in her classroom so she won’t come in contact with eggs. 

Length of time

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IEPs are long-term and can be renewed each year. IEPs are a full document that record a student’s disability, their current academic level, the goals and desired outcomes for the student, the specific accommodations and strategies that will be used to get there, and how progress will be evaluated. 

Example: Jason is a student with autism and is developmentally delayed. Autism is one of the 13 disabilities that qualify for an IEP and is not a temporary disability. Jason is given an IEP that provides learning goals and strategies that will be reevaluated yearly. 

504s are typically less thorough. They can be temporary, like in the case of an injury. These documents state the specific disability of a student and what accommodations will be needed. 

Example: Franklin breaks his wrist on his dominant hand and needs to wear a cast, which affects how he can write. Since Franklin’s injury is temporary, he is given a 504 plan that allows him to take more time to complete assignments and tests to accommodate his hand. 

Getting help with IEPs and 504s

All educators need to have a solid understanding of the difference between 504s and IEPs so that students can get the support they need. 

The course, 504s versus IEPs — Understanding Student Services, was created to help educators take a closer look at 504s and IEPs to figure out which one is best for their students. Both SPED teachers and general education teachers will benefit from this course. 

In it, you’ll learn about the differences between 504s and IEPs from celebrated SPED educator Ayo Jones. Ms. Jones is a teacher, speaker, and all-around SPED expert whose love of education is evident in this in-depth course. 

In this 30-minute course presented by Noodle Nook, you’ll learn about:

  • What a 504 is 
  • What an IEP is
  • Who qualifies for 504s and IEPs
  • What’s in the plan
  • Who creates the plan
  • How to review your plan
  • Parent participation, consent, and notice
  • Legal protection measures

There are many reasons why a student might qualify for an IEP or 504, and educators need to be aware of these reasons. After taking this course, you’ll be prepared to explain the difference between 504s and IEPs and how students qualify. 

Want to learn more about 504s and IEPs? Check out the demo of 504s versus IEPs — Understanding Student Services today! 

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