Special education consists of a set of services that are provided in different ways and settings, customized to fit the needs of the individualized student. It’s not the same for every student because it’s designed to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
The main goal of special education is to help students with disabilities learn. However, it doesn’t mean that these students should be placed in a separate classroom all day long. In fact, according to the law, students who receive special education services should spend as much time as possible in the same classrooms as other students. This is called the “least restrictive environment.”
Students who qualify for special education have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). They receive personalized teaching and other resources at no cost to their families. Specialists work with the students on their strengths as well as their challenges. Families are important members of the team that decides what support the students need to do well in school.
Students that may not qualify for an IEP may still be eligible for a 504 plan. While an IEP is designed for students with disabilities who require customized education services, a 504 plan is intended to provide accommodations and support to students with disabilities who do not need specialized instruction.
The key difference is that an IEP focuses on addressing academic needs and providing specialized instruction, while a 504 plan focuses on removing barriers and ensuring equal access to education for students with disabilities. A 504 plan may be appropriate for students with disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity, such as learning, concentrating, or interacting with others, but who do not require specialized instruction.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the differences between an IEP vs a 504 Plan, read this article on Understood.org
Special Education Eligibility
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Response to Intervention