Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

January 26, 2014

IEP… 504… What Do These Terms Really Mean and How Can I be my Own Child’s Advocate?

The process of implementing a special education plan for your child is, to put it plain and simple: overwhelming. So here is what you need to know to ensure the next time you walk into an IEP or 504 meeting, you are more than prepared! 

IEP – Individualized Education Plan: for students who have a disability that qualifies them for specialized instruction; meaning, instruction that cannot be met solely in the regular classroom. The child requires modified curriculum and a highly qualified special education teacher to assist them in accessing their courses. Students can qualify for services under specified disability categories such as: Autism, Specific Learning Disability (Math, Reading, Written Expression), Emotional, Sensory, etc. IEPs are updated annually.

Section 504 – for students who can participate within the general education program but require accommodations to help them fully participate with their peers. These students have a physical or mental impairment that substantially inhibits at least one major life activity (i.e., ADHD, dyslexia, chronic asthma, etc.). 504s are reviewed annually. Typically, these meetings are held with the school counselor. (Examples of helpful accommodations: extended test time, enlarged print, preferential seating, copies of class notes, read aloud, etc.)

Preparing for the 504/IEP Meeting

Before the Meeting

Write a list of concerns that you wish to discuss (YOU are your own child’s advocate up until they are 18 so be sure that you talk to your child about how they feel at school and what they would like to see change)

Request a copy of the proposed draft so you have time to review it and highlight what you like and what you are unsure about

Organize important documentation, such as teacher progress reports, report cards, and work samples. This is your hard evidence of what your concerns are.

During the Meeting

Introduce yourself and make sure everyone introduces themselves and defines their role

Ask questions and share your ideas, opinions, and concerns (you know your child better than anyone so let your voice be heard)

Request a copy of the completed document for your records (This is for you to review throughout the life of the document and ensure that everything that was discussed is being addressed as stated)

After the Meeting

Share copies with any person who works with your child to ensure they know the current status 

Remain involved! As I have already said, you are the voice of your child so if you feel something isn’t working, ask the special education teacher or the counselor. 

Look out for progress reports (IEP only). These will come at the same time as report cards and will offer you updates on how your child is progressing.

Be positive with your child to ensure they enjoy school, their teachers, and their work. Even though school may become hard at times, it is their current job. So let’s make sure that what they have to wake up to every morning is an enjoyable experience!

Helpful Links

CHADD – provides examples of possible accommodations or interventions for either a 504 plan or IEP

ECAC – PDF of an IEP checklist (SO helpful!)

Basic Special Education Process – breaks down the process into 10 easy to follow steps


Remember, as the parent, you are the advocate. You are the voice of your child. No one knows them any better than you!

If you have any further questions about the 504 or IEP process, please feel free to contact any of the educational specialists here to help you understand. We frequently meet with parents to review current plans or prepare for upcoming meetings. Call us anytime for a consultation!