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For Parents and Families

What is the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP?

An IEP is covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is a federal special education law. IEPs can only be provided for students with any of 13 specific disabilities listed in the IDEA. Parents can ask schools to pay for an independent evaluation (an IEE) of their child. IEPs must be written documents that describe the services the school will provide a student.

A 504 plan is covered under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 504 plans can serve any student with a disability.  504 plans do not allow parents to ask for an independent evaluation paid for by the school. 504 plans do not have to be written documents and may include things such as specific accommodations for the student. More information can be found at:

What if my child/student is not making progress in the general education classroom?

Parents and guardians are their child’s most important advocates. If a parent or guardian suspects that a child is not making progress, parents/guardians can notify the classroom teacher, special education teacher and administration about their concerns and request an IEP meeting to discuss the child’s progress. Parents can request documentation to support any claims the school makes about progress toward IEP goals and objectives. Examples of documentation that a parent or guardian should request are work samples, assessments and progress reports.  It may be necessary to rewrite the IEP in order to ensure that the student is receiving the right type and amount of specialized instruction, supplementary aids and services as well as related services.

What are some resources I can use if I believe that my child is not being educated in the least restrictive setting?

Some parents will want support to determine how to advocate for their child’s services and placement.

  • Most States have parent information and training centers that can offer support.
  • The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a group that advocates for students with disabilities, has resources listed on this page
  • Wrightslaw, a group who has a focus on special education law, has resources at this link
  • Disability Rights Maryland may be able to provide legal representation, legal advice, or referrals and resources in Maryland; other protection and advocacy organizations can be found in each State.                 

How can I teach my child to be a self-advocate?

Families can allow children with disabilities to access guides, articles, and resources written by self-advocates, particularly self-advocates with the same disabilities. Make sure they know that disability is nothing to be ashamed of. Let them know they have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to an education.

Teach them their right to reasonable accommodations, and that those aren’t just something you ask for – they are their rights! An example would be teaching them the rules schools must follow in IEPs and 504 plans under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Teach them other specific rights, such as:

  • Rights under the ADA
  • Rights under the Fair Housing Act
  • And other laws protecting people with disabilities

Also teach them that they have the right to boundaries and personal space. One blogger explains that “People have the right to control what happens to their body.” An example the blogger provides is the right to not be touched if a person does not want to be. They should also be able to express if someone is in their personal space. They should be able to say “no” to people, especially people who might take advantage of them.

Presume competence in their abilities, including the ability to learn, but believe them when they cannot do something due to disability or impairment.

Some resources are:

What are some resources that I can use?

Check out the following:

What are some other resources for parents?