SPECIAL EDUCATION vs SECTION 504

Some of the most common questions parents ask about dyslexia relate to the differences between two programs that serve students under the Special Programs umbrella, Special Education and Section 504.

Evaluation Options Explained

Section 504 utilizes a dyslexia ONLY evaluation, while Special Education under IDEA requires a Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) to determine all learning challenges; a private evaluation is also an option.  Once dyslexia is suspected, parents need to understand the evaluation options so they can make the best choice for their child. 

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

Both Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans can offer formal help for K–12 students with learning and attention issues. They’re similar in some ways but quite different in others. This chart compares them side-by-side to help you understand the differences. 

Understanding Special Education

Students who qualify for special education services and have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) receive significantly more support, services, goals, progress monitoring, and protection than those served via 504. And, despite out-dated misconceptions, special education is a service, not a place. Because the Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) process is more comprehensive, it takes longer than a 504 evaluation; however, nothing prevents the school from beginning to serve your child’s needs prior to the conclusion of the evaluation.

Do Colleges View 504 Plans Better Than IEPs (Special Education)?

I’m so glad you asked, because I hear this kind of misunderstanding all the time. Colleges don’t know whether a student applicant has an IEP (special education) or a 504 plan. They will only know if the student shares this information. In fact, colleges aren’t allowed to ask students who apply whether they have a disability. Nor can a college ask what kind of plan a student has, because that’s simply a different way of asking if the student has a disability. High schools won’t forward IEPs or 504 plans to colleges, either.

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Decoding Dyslexia is a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country. Decoding Dyslexia & Decoding Dyslexia Park Cities' resources are provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice or individualized professional counsel. An individual should not take action on behalf of their child without consulting multiple resources, taking special care to make sure that any resource reflects current educational laws and policies.