Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs), and Section 504 Plans


Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) are covered under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and are designed to ensure that children who are eligible for special education services have individualized and well-defined objectives for meeting educational and functional goals.

Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Section 504 plans are designed for students who have disabilities but may not qualify to receive special education services. These plans include accommodations or modifications to support student access to the educational curriculum.

This page seeks to highlight the requirements of each program.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B requires that an Individual Education Plan (IEP) be developed for every student who receives special education services. The IEP is a legal and binding document and must be followed as written. By law, IEPs must include:

  • present level of academic achievement and functional performance
  • statement of special education and related services as well as supplemental aids and services
  • measurable annual goals
  • how progress will be measured
  • modifications and accommodations that will promote progress toward goals
  • testing accommodations 
  • transition planning to prepare for life after high school graduation

Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs)

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan for providing early intervention services to an infant or toddler (age 0–3), with a disability and to the family. The early intervention/IFSP process includes identification and referral, intake and family assessment, child evaluation and assessment, IFSP development, and service delivery and transition. The IFSP must include:

  • a statement of the child’s present levels of functioning including physical, cognitive, communication, and social-emotional development
  • a statement of family concerns, priorities, and resources related to the child’s development
  • a statement of major outcomes to be expected, and the criteria, procedures, and timelines used to evaluate these outcomes
  • early intervention services including dates, frequency, duration, and method of service delivery
  • name of the agency responsible for providing services
  • name of the service coordinator
  • steps toward the transition from Part C services

Section 504 Plans

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving federal financial assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:

  1. have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
  2. have a record of such an impairment; or
  3. be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

A 504 plan is not special education. It is designed to outline accommodations that a student needs to access the educational curriculum. Accommodations are grouped into four categories:

  • presentation,
  • response,
  • setting,
  • timing and scheduling.

While there is no specific template for a 504 plan, it should include

  • specific accommodations, supports, and services for the student
  • name(s) of service providers
  • name of the person responsible for ensuring the 504 plan is followed

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced its intent to strengthen and protect rights for students with disabilities by amending regulations implementing Section 504.

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