Getting Started with 504 & IEP Plans

504 IEP plans aspire pans pandas

You are your child’s best advocate, and we are here to help! The 504 and IEP planning process may seem overwhelming, but these educational sections will help you navigate the process. School accommodations and/or modifications are essential for a thorough and appropriate PANS PANDAS treatment protocol. For example, students with mild symptoms may only require adjusted classroom strategies, while those with moderate symptoms may require a 504 or IEP plan. Students with severe symptoms may need IEP plans and possibly homebound instruction. 

You are not alone in being confused about whether your child needs an IEP or a 504 plan. The information below is not meant to be exhaustive in scope but will help you understand the basics. 

When to Ask for an Assessment for an IEP or 504 Plan

  • Basic needs are not being met – maybe they are not eating, using the bathroom, drinking water, or going outside for recess
  • Gut feeling student needs more support
  • Academics are affected
  • Uptick in behavior, increase in severity of symptoms 
  • Staff is calling/emailing home more than usual 
  • Social difficulties
  • Overly stressed and struggling to manage homework 
  • Consistently bringing home unfinished schoolwork
  • The stress of the day is not manageable and spills over at home where there is an uptick in behaviors and symptoms

A Few Questions to Consider

  • Does your child’s disability due to PANS PANDAS impact their education functionally (skils: coping, social, executive) or academically (math, writing, reading)?
    • If not, then
      •  504 or IEP plan is not needed
    • If yes, then
      • Does your child only need support that provides equal access to learning in a general education setting but not modifications to the curriculum, expectations, or setting? If yes, then they may only need a 504 plan.
        • If no, then
          • Does your child need not only support plus needs to be taught skills and strategies that may require the curriculum, expectations, or setting modified to make progress? If yes, then they may need an IEP.

    Basic Tips for Navigating the 504 and IEP Process 

    • Educate yourself about the process and the laws of both 504s and IEPs
    • Remember you are part of the team – Make sure you provide input!
    • Get copies of all reports, assessments, and other materials prior to meetings. You need to review them and make a list of questions to be an active team member.
    • Keep a list of behaviors and symptoms that your child needs additional support for. Use this information to request updates to their 504 or IEP plans throughout the year or at the annual review meeting.
    • 504 and IEP plans are fluid – If your child needs new supports, services, placement, or goals, then call a meeting to request adjustments. Some changes can be made outside of a formal meeting too.
    • 504 and IEP plans should be reviewed annually.
    • Put all communication in writing – Create a paper trail. If you have a conversation, follow up with an email to document what you discussed.
    • Get advice from fellow parents. Join the ASPIRE Facebook Group and attend a ChitChat Meeting.

    504 & IEP Basics

    504 plans and IEPs are covered by two distinct laws and serve different purposes, but they are both designed to help students access the curriculum and succeed in learning.  

    A 504 plan is a civil rights law under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act created to prevent discrimination by protecting children with disabilities in school. It provides services and adjusts the learning environment to help students with physical or mental impairments learn with their peers in a general education setting. A 504 plan is appropriate for students who need accommodations to the classroom environment and curriculum but typically not modified placement and curriculum. 

    An IEP plan is a federal special education law for children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It provides special education and related services to meet the student’s individual needs. The legal document describes yearly goals and provides appropriate supports and placement to help them achieve them. 

    IEPs and 504 plans are delivered at no cost to students or their families. Parental involvement is required for an IEP, but technically not for a 504 plan, although it is typically encouraged to ensure the student’s success. Written requests begin the evaluation process for a 504 and IEP and start the clock on decisions that require a timely response from educators.

    ASPIRE has expanded information on 504 plans and IEP plans.

    Special Education Articles

    Learn more about PANS PANDAS in the school setting. PANS PANDAS is a medical condition in which symptoms affect a student’s ability to attend school and learn.

    PANS PANDAS at School

    Written in conjunction with ASPIRE Education Committee and Shara Virlan. 

    Sharla has 14 years of classroom education. She also has a child with PANDAS. She runs the PANS PANDAS Education Facebook page.

    • S Elementary Ed. with a minor in Early Childhood ED.
    • Masters in Educational Leadership
    • License in Reading Instruction
    • 14 years of teaching experience (Grades K-3)
    • 1 year of Literacy Coaching

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