If your child has special needs, he or she may be eligible to receive services under two different plans in New York State: an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan. While both plans are designed to provide accommodations and/or support to students with disabilities, there are some key differences between the two. In essence, an IEP provides special education programs and services to qualifying students in grades K-12, whereas a 504 plan generally provides accommodations and support to disabled students within the general education classroom to allow them equal access to an education.

The attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss are experienced in advocating for families that need representation from a special education lawyer to formulate an IEP or 504 plan for their child, and to get that plan implemented by the child’s school district. If a parent or guardian believes the plan is not being implemented in full or appropriately, our attorneys can help.

Special Education Advocacy Team
Jacob D. Verchereau

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What is an IEP Plan?

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legally binding document that outlines the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) and requires specific components such as accommodations and modifications in the least restrictive environment, progress monitoring, testing, support and services. IEPs must be designed to provide students with appropriate interventions, including comprehensive instructional objectives and goals. IEPs are developed by a team of professionals, which generally includes the student’s parents, teachers, related service providers, and other special education professionals. IEPs must be reviewed annually and updated based upon a child’s current needs and functioning levels.

IEP accommodations can include, for example:

  • Special education classrooms, resource room, or aide/ Teaching Assistant support
  • Alternative instructional setting
  • Testing accommodations (such as extra time or breaks during testing)
  • Extra time for assignments or modified assignments
  • Use of graphic organizers, calculators, word processors, or assistive technology
  • Special lighting, large print
  • Social, emotional, and behavioral supports and interventions
  • Study skills instruction

Read more about IEPs here.

What is a Section 504 Plan?

In contrast to IEPs, a 504 Plan generally provides accommodations and support to disabled students within the general education setting. Similar to IEP committees, 504 Plans are developed by a team of professionals familiar with the student’s special needs, which often includes the student’s parents, principal, and teacher(s). Unlike IEPs however, 504 Plans do not provide special education programming or services, therefore 504 Plans are generally less restrictive and offer fewer options for disabled children.

A well-formulated Section 504 plan will place a special needs child on equal footing with other students in a classroom by eliminating barriers that might hold the child back. 504 Plans offer assistance that is intended to enable the student to stay on par with other non-disabled students within a classroom.

Section 504 plan accommodations can include, for example:

  • Preferential seating
  • Written list of instructions or lesson notes
  • Extra time on written examinations
  • Oral responses to test questions instead of written
  • Assistive technology in the classroom
  • Teaching tools such as custom organizers

In every case, a Section 504 Plan is supposed to reflect a child’s unique needs and circumstances. In addition to classroom accommodations, a child’s 504 Plan may include related services, such as speech & language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and in-school counseling.

How can a New York special education lawyer help you?

A special needs planning lawyer can provide valuable assistance to parents and children who are seeking a 504 Plan or IEP, even before a team from the school district reviews the referral. Our attorneys can help plan and strategize in advance. We can help parents verify that their referral is complete and that it corresponds to all the appropriate statutory and regulatory requirements.

If a parent’s request for a 504 Plan or IEP is denied, or only partially approved, our attorneys can advocate for you. We frequently do the following:

  • Represent parents and children at CSE and 504 meetings
  • Clarify the child’s limitations and remedy any misunderstandings about the child’s needs.
  • Emphasize how the child’s educational program is lacking, or otherwise preventing the child from making meaningful progress
  • Provide detailed summaries of how the child’s limitations are fostering an atmosphere in which the child is bullied or ostracized.
  • Fight back against claims that funding for IEP or 504 plans is limited, or that the local school district is not implementing aspects of the IEP or 504 Plan
  • Legal representation at impartial hearings and appeals to the State Review Officer and the NY courts.

Committed Advocates for Children with Special Needs

Approval for an IEP and/or a 504 Plan is not automatic. Our attorneys know the process inside and out and can help parents get secure a favorable result. Having an accomplished legal team on your side can help parents convince the local school district that a 504 Plan or an IEP plan is justified and necessary.

Pierro, Connor, & Strauss, LLC is committed to uncompromising advocacy on behalf of children with unique educational needs and their parents. We have offices in Albany and the Capital Region, Hudson, Lake Placid, New York City, and Long Island. Call us to schedule a consultation today.

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