Would my child benefit from an IEP or a 504 Plan?

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Summer is here, but before you know it, it will be Labor Day. So, there’s no time like the present to start planning for your child’s next school year especially if your son or daughter has a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome (TS) or the symptoms of TS.

Register for our webinar “Are IEPs and 504s on Your Back to School List”

What is TS and how does it manifest itself?

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an inherited, neurological disorder characterized by repeated involuntary movements and uncontrollable vocal (phonic) sounds called tics. In a few cases, such tics can include inappropriate words and phrases. There is no specific test for TS. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) provides guidelines so that health providers can best determine a diagnosis.

Learn more about Tourette Syndrome here: https://njcts.org/what-is-tourette-syndrome

Would your child benefit from help and accommodations in school?

Every person is unique and every person with TS has unique symptoms and manifestations of TS. Similar to an analysis of what medical or behavioral treatment plan to follow for TS, determining what is the best educational avenue for your child with TS, depends on individual needs and circumstances.

In creating a plan for your child, a collaborative team effort is the best approach. This requires honest and open discussion among the student, parent(s), educational partners and medical partners. Sharing of information and good communication are necessary for developing the best course of action for your child’s productive and positive educational experience and being able to tweak or change it when necessary.

On your part, good record keeping about your child’s symptoms, triggers, and most successful methods for controlling tics can be extremely helpful in both diagnosis and educational planning.

What are the requirements for Section 504 and the IDEA for students with disabilities and how do the two plans differ?

All students in the United States have a right to a free public education and to an equal opportunity no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, sex or whether they are citizens or non-citizens. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with disabilities that adversely affects their learning and requires special education are entitled to assistance through an Individualized Education Program IEP). https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/#IDEA-Purpose

A diagnosis for one of the qualifying conditions is necessary and the underlying condition must rise to the level of requiring special education in order to be eligible for an IEP. In our last blog entry, we discussed what factors are considered by medical professionals in determining whether a person has TS and whether the symptoms constitute a disability.

Under the IDEA, a school district, with the involvement of the student’s parents, is required to develop an IEP for each eligible student with a disability. The IEP must set out, in detail, the student’s program of special education and related services- in other words, a roadmap specifically for that student to provide special education and other services in a way suitable to that student and their disability. An IEP is highly individualized, with personally tailored goals and milestones. It contains a minimum set of components, or parts, that convey key information about your child and details about when and how the plan will be implemented. You can familiarize yourself with the eight key components of an IEP here. https://www.verywellfamily.com/essential-parts-of-an-individual-education-program-2162702

Not every student with a disability requires special education but may still qualify for supports and accommodations through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) Section 504 is a civil rights law that bans disability discrimination and entitles eligible students with disabilities to a free appropriate public education. To be eligible for Section 504, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits them in a major life activity such as learning, breathing, attending, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, behavior, working or caring for self. In deciding whether the student is substantially limited in a major life activity, a team of persons with knowledge must consider the impact of the disability upon the student without any mitigating measures such as medication, assistive technology, prosthetics, hearing aids, reasonable accommodations provided to the student or learned behavior. A student may be eligible for Section 504 services in school even when the major life activity of learning is not impacted.

The 504 Plan must provide aids and services that are designed “to meet the individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met and are based on adherence to procedures governing educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards.” See: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf. A 504 Plan is a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove barriers to learning. The goal is to give the student equal access at school. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-a-504-plan?_sp=0910384e-852b-49dc-b3b5-2205e695a7b6.1656096477400.

Examples of accommodations in 504 plans include but are not limited to:

  • oral testing
  • preferential seating
  • extended time on tests and assignments
  • tailoring homework
  • verbal, visual, or technology aids
  • allergy-free environments
  • modified textbooks or audio-video materials
  • behavior management support
  • adjusted class schedules or grading
  • excused lateness, absence, or missed classwork
  • pre-approved breaks or nurse’s office visits and accompaniment to visits
  • nursing service to oversee administration of medication


Both IEPs and Section 504 plans must be implemented in general education classes to the maximum extent appropriate. Students should be removed from the general education class only when they cannot achieve satisfactory academic success with supplementary aides and services.

Looking for help to get started?

NJCTS provides access to past webinars that can help you navigate:


For more information on the evaluation process for an IEP, the team approach, legal requirements and for tips on making the process as positive as possible, one good general source to get you started is https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/iep.html. For those in New Jersey, you may want to look at Parental Rights in Special Education (2019 version) https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/form/prise/RevisedParentalRights(PRISE).pdf

Every school district must have a Section 504 Coordinator as well as policies and procedures covering Section 504. Copies of board policies and regulations are usually posted on your school district website.

List of Resources

New Jersey Department of Educationwww.nj.gov/njded/spedialed/ – Parental Rights in Special Education (2019 version)

Statewide Parent Advocacy Network Linkswww.spannj.org

Chart on Overview of Special Education Process in New Jersey English & Spanish (undated)

Evaluating Children for Disability (Sept. 2010) [Also in Spanish] [evaluations for IDEA eligibility]

Fact Sheet: What to do while you are waiting for the results of your child’s evaluation

Fact Sheet: Related Services 

Fact Sheet: Inclusive Education 

Fact Sheet: Inclusion and Preschool 

Fact Sheet: Extended School Year

Fact Sheet: The Rights of Immigrant and Limited English Proficient Parents and Students in the Education Process (undated)   [English] [Spanish] [Korean]

Fact Sheet: Transition to Adult Life

Fact Sheet: What happens when we disagree—making special education decisions in the case of divorce

Fact Sheet: The Rights of Children with Disabilities Enrolled by their Parents in Private Schools

Fact Sheet: The Rights of Parents of Children Included in New Jersey’s Child Welfare System [undated]

Parent Advocacy Brief Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act—Impact on Students with LD and AD/HD (2009)

Chart Legal responsibilities for accommodating children with special needs in after school and summer programs [shows responsibilities under IDEA, ADA, 504 and NJLAD]

Students’ Rights Handbook, A guide for public school students in New Jersey (Fourth Edition 2011) by ACLU of New Jersey

Disability Rights of New Jerseywww.disabilityrightsnj.org

Students with Life-Threatening Health Conditions:  A toolkit for students and families (November 2021) [covers IHPs and Section 504 plans]

New Jersey Early Intervention System:  Frequently Asked Questions [March 2021]

Preschool Special Education: Frequently Asked Questions (March 2021) ENGLISH – SPANISH

Making up Special Education Services if the student graduated at the end of the 2019-2020 school year: Frequently Asked Questions (July 2021) Parent & Student Resources for S3434 – includes resources from DRNJ as well as other organizations including ELC. S3434 extended eligibility for students turning 21 years of age during COVID for 1 year or longer if ordered by OAL or court

The Special Education & Juvenile Justice Project (Mercer County, N.J.)

Transition to Adult Life for Students with Disabilities Checklist

NJ Traumatic Brain Injury Fund [up to $100,000 in lifetime for those with limited incomes]

Reasonable Accommodations:  The Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination: A Frequently Asked Questions—A Basic Overview of the Laws (August 2021) [focuses on employment]

Power point slides: Self-advocacy in the workplace:  know your rights

An Advocates Guide to the New Jersey Legislature (March 2021)

Education Law Centerwww.edlawcenter.org

School Discipline in New Jersey A Toolkit for Students, families and advocates

Student Discipline Rights and Procedures: A guide for Advocates (2d edition 2012) page 67- covers students with disabilities

English learners in New Jersey Exposing Inequities and Expanding Opportunities in the wake of the Pandemic (November 2021)

FAQ on Compensatory Education in Response to COVID-19 (January 24, 2022)

Know your rights if your child is turning 21 years of age during the 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 school years

The Right to Special Education in NJ (2008 Revised Edition)

Understanding Public School Residency Requirements A guide for Advocates (2019)

One Comment

  1. My child has been on an IEP and it has been for the most part successful. Infact , he doesn’t really know he is on a IEP. He notices some differences, but the teachers have been very professional about this.

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