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Back to School: What Are IEPs and 504 Plans, and How Can They Help a Child with a Bleeding Disorder?

A simple guide to these school services and accommodations

If you have school-age children (or you’re about to), you may have heard of 504 plans and IEPs. But you may be wondering just what the heck these numbers and letters mean. And, more importantly, how can these programs help your child at school?

Read on for a crash course in these free services available to help ensure a child’s educational success.

What are 504 plans and IEPs?

Both come from federal laws to help ensure that schoolchildren with special needs or disabilities in kindergarten through 12th grade have the same chance of success at school as their peers without special needs. The laws require schools to provide appropriate accommodations and services to qualified students.

Why “504”?

The 504 plan takes its name from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability and ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to federally funded programs, such as public schools or private schools receiving federal funding. Section 504 states that a student with a physical or mental impairment that limits at least one major life activity is eligible for accommodations at school.

Why “IEP”?

IEP stands for individualized education program. The plan is part of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides for free, appropriate public education tailored to students’ individual needs. To receive an IEP, a student must meet the requirements for special education services under IDEA. Your child’s school can provide more detail on the specific requirements.

What do they do?

After a child is evaluated by a multidisciplinary group of professionals that might include a physical or occupational therapist, a psychologist and others, an IEP provides special education and related services based on the child’s unique needs. The 504 plan sets out accommodations for students with physical or mental disabilities, such as an adjusted class schedule or preapproved nurse visits.

What are the differences between them?

A 504 plan and an IEP both support students with special needs in overcoming academic hurdles, yet there are subtle differences.

An IEP has stricter eligibility requirements than a 504 plan. To qualify for an IEP, the child’s evaluation must determine he or she has one or more of 13 disabilities listed in IDEA. If the child is eligible for an IEP, he or she can receive tailored services in either a regular classroom setting or a special education classroom. In general, IEPs are an effective tool to help children who are having difficulty learning and functioning in the school setting.

A 504 plan covers a much wider array of conditions than the IEP. Students who don’t qualify for an IEP are still possibly eligible for a 504 plan.

Both the 504 plan and the IEP are evaluated and revised annually. The student’s progress is assessed and adjustments in services are made so the student continues to receive appropriate and effective assistance.

How do I know which one will benefit my child?

A student with a bleeding disorder may qualify for either an IEP or a 504 plan, depending on his or her circumstances. Parents should speak with their hemophilia treatment center (HTC) team and officials at their child’s school for more details and to determine what assistance, if any, their child needs to succeed at school.

How can a 504 plan or an IEP help kids with bleeding disorders?

Because of the challenges of bleeding disorders, kids may at times have difficulty keeping up academically and may not always be able to take part in the same activities as their schoolmates. Some accommodations that an IEP or 504 plan can set forth are: offering modified physical education, providing an elevator pass, requiring that a school nurse or parent be present on field trips, not counting absences or lateness that occurs because of medical reasons, providing a place to store factor and infusion supplies, and arranging for a location at school for the student to infuse factor.