Understanding 504 Plan vs. IEP: Which Program Applies To Your Child With Food Allergies?

If your child has food allergies and is old enough to attend school, you may soon find yourself trying to unravel all of the various acronyms and programs covering children with food allergies. Two of the more prominent are a 504 Plan and an IEP. The IEP, or Individualized Educational Plan, comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Section 504 refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Both statutes are intended to make accommodations for those with food allergies and other disabilities, but there are some important differences.

A 504 Plan is intended for students whose disability does not impact their ability to learn. These students can access education in a regular classroom setting. This statute was enacted to disallow discrimination, either intentional or unintentional, against people with disabilities. For example, a 504 Plan might include steps such as ensuring a peanut-free lunch area for a child with peanut allergies.

IDEA and the Individualized Educational Plan, meanwhile, are intended for students who need additional services or protection. These will be outlined in the student's IEP. For example, an IEP could include the provision of an at-home tutor for students who miss school due to a disability.

Section 504 is the broader of the two federal statutes. All students covered by IDEA are also covered by Section 504, but not all students eligible for a 504 Plan are also eligible for additional services through an IEP.

In order to access services or protections under either statute, your child should be evaluated by the school district's IDEA and Section 504 Coordinator.

Photo: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

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