Navigating the System
A Guide for People with Traumatic Brain Injury and Their Families

What do the terms "IEP" and "504" mean and how can my child with TBI benefit from them at school?

Sep 24, 2013, 17:26 PM
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There are two Federal Laws that apply specifically to the needs of students with disabilities.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, commonly called IDEA, is the Special Education Law. This is the law under which your child would have an Individual Education Program (IEP).
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called Section 504, is designed to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. This is the law under which your child would have a 504 Plan.
What is an IEP?
An IEP (Individual Education Program) is a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting that includes school representatives and the parents. The IEP outlines your child’s special education program.

When should you consider Special Education services for your child?
You child’s brain injury may have caused physical and/or cognitive impairments that could have an adverse affect on her education.

  • Your child may process information more slowly and therefore require more time to understand and complete assignments.
  • She might have speech or language problems that affect her ability to communicate her understanding of the class material. 
  • Your child may experience changes in behavior that interfere with her participation in class activities.
  • Fatigue may be an issue for her, limiting her ability to keep up with a regular schedule of class segments.
What is Section 504?
Some students with a traumatic brain injury may not qualify for special education services under IDEA. However, these students may meet the eligibility requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is designed to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities.  

What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 Plan is designed for each student’s individual needs. It describes the specific academic, physical, cognitive, and behavioral challenges the child has and lists the appropriate services, accommodations, and modifications that the school will provide.

Generally speaking, if a student qualifies for special education services, the IEP will cover all the needs and a 504 Plan will likely not be needed. But for those students who do not have an IEP, a 504 Plan can identify your child’s needs and document strategies the school will provide to meet those needs.

Where can I find out more information?
Download the fact sheets on this screen to learn more details on how and when to apply for special education and/or 504 services.

Contact the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona for information and help with navigating the system of resources for your child or teen: 602-508-8024 or toll-free at 1-888-500-9165.

In addition, the Arizona Center for Disability Law provides general information, self advocacy materials and training on the IDEA and Section 504 and other issues relating to students with special needs. Click the links on this page to find downloadable guides on understanding your child’s educational rights and advocating for your child.

If you feel the school is not being responsive to your child’s needs, contact the Arizona Center for Disability Law to explore further legal options: 602-274-6287 or toll-free at 1-800-927-2260.
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