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What is the difference between an IEP & a 504 Plan and who is responsible for the oversight/coordination of each one?


An IEP is an education plan developed for a child who is unable to, or struggles to, learn and needs specialized instruction or services. This plan or IEP can also provide accommodations. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is a civil rights law that guarantees Free and Appropriate Public Education to all students regardless of abilities and is the basis for IEPs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that follows an individual with a disability throughout their lives. In school-aged children, a 504 plan establishes accommodations that will assist the student in obtaining their education. For example, a student who is in a wheelchair would be covered under this law and would be afforded a 504 plan. The school would need to make accommodations so that the student would have access to the school (i.e., ramps, automatic doors, etc.).

What is the difference between an accommodation and a modification?

Accommodations: Are techniques and materials that don't change the basic curriculum but do make learning a little easier or help kids demonstrate what they know. Examples of accommodations are extended time on a test, the use of an amplification system, frequent breaks and sitting in the front of the classroom.

Modification: Modifications are changes in the delivery, content, or instructional level of a subject or test. They result in changed or lowered expectations and create a different standard for kids with disabilities than for those without disabilities.

How do I ensure what was agreed upon at the IEP meeting is being carried out in the educational setting? Can I receive copies of the meeting notes?


During an IEP meeting the school staff and parents discuss the child’s needs, strengths and weaknesses. IEP goals and accommodations are discussed and then after the meeting, an IEP is developed. Once an IEP is signed the document becomes legally binding. The agreed upon services and accommodations must be provided by the school. Services are to begin immediately and the type, length and frequency are outlined in the service delivery grid of the document. Every time a report card is issued, the personnel working with the child providing services are required to provide progress reports. These progress reports are considered periodic updates–is the child making progress and will they be able to master the goal by the annual review date. Many times goals need to be adjusted based on the progress of the child.

In addition to progress notes, teachers and specialists that work with your child on a one-to-one basis or small group environment are supposed to keep a service delivery log. If you request a copy of this log in writing, the school will provide it to you. Meeting notes are available to any parent at anytime. In fact, if you ask, the minutes/notes can be copied for you right after the meeting.

Do the administrative representatives at the IEP meeting have the authority to make binding decisions?

All IEP meetings should consist of parents, a general education classroom teacher, a special education teacher, a representative from the school district that is knowledgeable about the availability of resources and can commit funds, an individual who can interpret evaluations results, and when appropriate the child with the disability. Parents should ask at the beginning of each meeting about the roles of those in attendance and clarify that at least one person from the school has the authority to commit resources and funds on behalf of the district.

When something is not being followed in my child's IEP or 504 Plan, do I speak to a specific teacher or an administrator? If so, which one? 


When parents feel that the IEP or 504 plan is not being followed, talk with the teacher first. Many times teachers are not aware of all the elements in IEP or 504 plan and may need a reminder. If the issue is still not resolved, parents should request a Team meeting in cases where an IEP is involved. In cases where it’s an issue with a 504 plan, ask to speak with the 504 coordinator (typically the guidance counselor) and request a meeting.

When do I bring an issue to the principal vs. the Special Education Department?


Issues that are associated with special education laws, IEPs, evaluations or special education services should be addressed to the Special Ed Department. Other matters can usually be handled by the principal of the building.

When there is a problem with my child's performance, do I speak with the classroom teacher, the special education teacher, the Team chairperson, the principal or the special education director?


If your child is on an IEP and you have questions regarding your child’s performance, consider speaking with the child’s teacher first and then consider requesting a Team meeting. When requesting a Team meeting, please write a brief letter outlining your concerns. The letter should be addressed to the team chairperson, with a copy to the special education department and to the teacher. Once the letter is received, a meeting should take place within 10 school days.


What is the school's policy on restraint? Who at each school has the training in the proper techniques and to whom do parents direct their questions and concerns regarding restraints?


Questions regarding restraints, specifically policy and training should be answered during a Team meeting. Guidelines and behavior plans should be developed with the child in mind and agreed upon by the Team. In general, the DESE requires that school districts have written procedures that are provided to school staff members and made available to parents of enrolled students. Within the first month of each school year (and within 30 days for newly hired staff) staff need to be trained on the school’s restraint policy. In depth training for principals and other staff members identified and who are authorized to serve as a school-wide resource to assist in ensuring proper administration of physical restraint is to completed at the beginning of each school year. The DESE recommends that such training be at least sixteen (16) hours.

If my child is having behavioral issues related to his/her disability, who do I discuss these issues with? What is the school's discipline policy for children with disabilities?


If a child with a disability is having behavioral issues, a Team meeting should be convened to discuss whether a Functional Behavior Assessment should be administered and a behavior modification plan developed. If a child with a disability and who is served through an IEP is suspended for more than 10 school days in any one year, a manifestation hearing must be convened.


What do I do if I feel my child is not making adequate progress and it is not time for his/her annual IEP meeting?


Parents can request an IEP Team meeting at anytime. It is recommended that such a request is made in writing briefly outline your concerns. The letter should be addressed to the Team chairperson, with a copy to the special education department and to the teacher. Once the letter is received, a meeting should take place within 10 school days.



How long after a Team meeting do I have to wait to receive my child's IEP? What if the IEP does not reflect the services/goals/information that was agreed upon during the Team meeting?


If a draft was provided to you on the day of the meeting, you will receive the final IEP within 2 weeks; if no draft was provided, the final IEP must be provided to you within 3 to 5 school days. The IEP must reflect what the Team recommended. If the IEP that is presented does not seem to reflect what was agreed upon, review the meeting notes and then request another meeting. Parents have 30 days in which to sign an IEP. Please note that these services will not begin until an IEP is signed. Do not sign the IEP if you do not agree with its contents.

My child's doctor believes he/she needs a particular service in order to progress at school. Why doesn't the IEP Team agree with the doctor's assessment?


The Team considers recommendations made by evaluators, teachers, tutors, therapists and doctors. It is a Team decision whether a recommendation is to be incorporated into an IEP. If a Team determines that a service is needed for a student with a disability, the school district must provide it regardless whether or not the school district provides that service. In cases where a service is recommended/endorsed by the Team and not currently available within the district, then the district must contract with an outside organization for such service.

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