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IEP, BIP, and 504 Plans…What’s the Difference???

If your child is struggling in school, they may be eligible for additional supports at no cost to your family.  If you’re confused about your options and what all the acronyms mean, you’re not alone. Many parents have concerns, but they’re not sure what the best option for their child is. Whether your child is struggling with attendance, disruptive behaviors in the classroom, focusing, completing assignments, processing directions, or any other concerns that interferes with learning, your school may be able to offer a plan to help.  Read below to learn the basics about Individual Education Plans, Behavioral Intervention Plans and 504 Plans.

What is it?

Individual Education Plan (IEP) – An Individual Education Plan is a blueprint detailing the Special Education supports the school will provide when a student needs extra help. The IEP addresses a child’s specific learning issues and includes goals. The plan is developed by school staff, parents, the student and can include community providers and advocates.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – If a student’s behaviors are interfering with his or her learning, the IEP team can include a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  Behaviors that may interfere with learning can include, but are not limited to, oppositional behaviors (arguing with school staff, refusing to follow directions, and defiance), emotional difficulties (anxiety, depression, and fear), disruptive behaviors (yelling, swearing, destruction of property, and physical aggression), excessive tardiness and truancy.  The BIP outlines a plan for how to change the behaviors that interfere with learning.

504 Plan – A 504 plan offers supports, modifications and accommodations that are similar to those offered through an IEP. However, the eligibility requirements are different. If your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP, they may qualify for a 504 Plan.


Individual Education Plan (IEP) – In order to be eligible for an IEP, your child must be evaluated by his or her school. If you are having concerns about your child, you can request to have an evaluation completed. Your child’s school has 14 days to respond to your request and let you know if they will be completing the evaluation. The Evaluation may include documentation of your child’s disability (such as a doctor’s diagnosis), academic records, assessments completed by School Staff, classroom observations and interviews with parents or other adults who know the child well.

The IEP is guided by Federal Law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In order to qualify for an IEP, your child’s evaluation must show that he or she has a disability that falls under 1 of the 13 categories identified by IDEA (Autism, Cognitive Disability, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairment, Multiple Disability, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Visual Impairment). Additionally, his or her disability must affect their educational performance or ability to learn.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – If your child is already on an IEP, and his or her behaviors are interfering with their educational performance or ability to learn, they may be eligible for a BIP. School Staff will complete a Functional Assessment to identify the problematic behaviors that interfere with learning.  The Functional Assessment is different for every child and can include assessment tools, interviews with parents and school staff and classroom observations.  Once completed, the Functional Assessment will clearly define the problem behaviors, identify triggers that cause the behavior to occur, identify anything that maintains the problematic behaviors and offer a hypothesis for why the child may be engaging in the behavior.  Once the problematic behaviors are well defined, the team will develop a plan to reduce negative behaviors and increase desired or replacement behaviors.

504 Plan – In order to be eligible for a 504 plan, your child must have a documented disability that interferes with his or her ability to learn in a general education classroom. One common disability that is covered under a 504 Plan, is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you are having concerns about your child, you can request that your Child’s school complete an evaluation. The Evaluation may include documentation of your child’s disability (such as a doctor’s diagnosis), academic records, assessments completed by School Staff, classroom observations and interviews with parents or other adults who know the child well.
The 504 Plan is guided by Federal Statue under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that a child with a disability has equal access to an education that is comparable to and education that is provided to those that do not have a disability. The eligibility requirements for a 504 allow for a broader definition of what is considered a disability. If your child does not meet the eligibility requirements for an IEP, they may qualify for a 504 Plan.

What Does the Plan Include?

Individual Education Plan (IEP) – An IEP is required by law to include annual goals that the student will be working towards. Additionally, the IEP must identify what specific special education and related services will be provided by the school (how often, for how long, location and who will be providing the service) to help the student achieve their annual goals. The IEP must also define how progress towards the goals will be determined.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – A BIP will include a summary of the Functional Assessment. The BIP will clearly define what behaviors interfere with learning and a plan for how to address this. Typically, school staff will be teaching the student a new behavior to replace the problematic behavior. The BIP outlines how the replacement behavior will be taught, who is responsible, how long it will take and how school staff will reinforce appropriate behaviors.  Additionally, the BIP will include a way to measure progress.

504 Plan – There is no standard 504 Plan that is required by law. Every school district may handle 504 Plans differently. Typically, a 504 Plan is written for your child’s individual needs and includes any extra supports or accommodations offered by the school, who will be providing extra supports and the names of the school staff responsible for ensuring that the plan is implemented.

For more detailed information about IEPs, BIPs and 504 Plans, please visit the Illinois State Board of Education Links below:
IEP Information: https://www.isbe.net/documents/ch6-iep.pdf
BIP Information: https://www.isbe.net/Documents/ch9-bips.pdf
504 Plan Information: https://www.isbe.net/Documents/ch15-section_504.pdf


  • Eshal Fatima

    I like your blog.

  • Eshal Fatima

    I like your post thanks for sharing.

  • Donna Hutter

    My G GRANDSON HAS 504. The school did not address his behaviors. Can I b send more information on 504 protection for children K-12
    How do I address this issue n get them to implement a Behavioral plan?
    The above was very helpful

    • James Kling

      I would encourage you to request an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education e.g. IEP. If you can get that established then getting a behavior plan in place is fairly routine. If he does not qualify I would ask directly about a behavior plan. If you are looking for a particular plan that might be a bit tricky. If you are looking for something more generic I think they should be amenable since the purpose of the behavior plan is to help him be more successful in school. The underlying advantage of the behavior plan, whether it is attached to a 504 or IEP, is that it provides protection for him and accountability to the school.


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