Here’s a quick explainer of how an IEP is different than a 504 plan.

An IEP is not the same as a 504 plan. An IEP stands for an individualized education plan. A child must qualify for an IEP in order to receive one. That qualification depends on a child’s diagnosis. When compared to a 504 plan, an IEP tends to cover more contributing factors and diagnosis than a 504 plan does.  

We often see, when we’re doing our parent sessions at CommuniCamp, parents say, “I tried to qualify for an IEP but I wasn’t able to get one and was given a 504 instead.” This is mostly because some states qualify a child with Selective Mutism (SM) for an IEP while some do not.  

In order to receive an IEP, a child must show that their disability is impeding their ability to participate in the school curriculum.  

Think about a child with a speech and language disorder. They may need accommodations put in place, such as retelling of directions – to help them complete assignments. They might need tasks broken down into smaller steps.  

Children with SM often qualify for an IEP when they have an additional diagnosis to present to the school. Oftentimes, we see a child with SM who also has a combination of sensory processing disorders, learning disorder, speech and language disorders and more. These children usually qualify for an IEP. 

When a child does qualify for an IEP, the curriculum needs to be specialized for their specific needs. The child’s school district will carry out testing in an effort to uncover the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The school will take the areas of weakness and create specialized instructions for their teacher to implement.  

An IEP usually falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). What we typically look for at the SMart Center when talking to families is what we call the “WHYs of SM.” Why does this child have SM?