What is an IEP? What is a 504 Plan? Can an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan Prepare You for A Successful Career?

Yes, they can. An IEP or Section 504 plan have quality standards established by Law, including preparation for a career, allowances for accommodations and protection from discrimination.
IEPs and 504 Plans should help you reach your goals. The IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan and is required for students who receive special education services in public schools. It plans instruction, support and services necessary in alignment with the student’s career goals. IEPs can help students access the curriculum of Core Standards for high school graduation, Bachelor’s Degree, research and studies at Masters or Doctoral level or training for a specific trade or career. An IEP should always contain employment-related language after the age of 16. You can learn what qualifies as a student with disability requiring an IEP, here. An IEP only applies to students from 3-21 according to the laws of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). By the time a child is 14 years of age, transition to life beyond the limit of IDEA at age 22, should be included in the plans. The IDEA also allows for students to begin transition planning and training before age 14, as well.
A “504 Plan” refers to a section of the Rehabilitation Act. This is the American Civil Rights legislation for individuals with disabilities.  It defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities, not just students ages 3-21 and not just students with disabilities in accordance with IDEA. As far as employment and schooling, qualified individuals with disabilities include those who can perform the duties of the work with reasonable accommodation.  To deny reasonable accommodation or fail to hire someone because of their disability, would violate this law. Its purpose is to prevent and prohibit disability discrimination by any program or activity that receives federal funding.  For example, it applies to colleges, public schools, all state and government agencies and programs, including some hospitals, human services, public services such as the library, post office and vocational programs.
An IEP or a 504 Plan are tools to develop and achieve career goals for individuals with disabilities.  Educational Counselors help a student to define goals for achievement and provide a student with a clear path of attainment to reach them. An Educational Counselor can help ensure IEPs and 504 plans prohibit discrimination and open the doors for students who might otherwise be ignored, rejected or not given a chance to learn and develop in all aspects of education: social, academic, emotional or physical.
An Educational Counselor is trained to help you achieve your life goals. An Educational Counselor coordinates with the school administrators to prepare effective plans where IEPs or 504 plans are required, which is why an Educational Counselor must be trained in working with schools, families and care providers.  Knowledge and application of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act can be used to advocate for children who do not meet the definition of a disability as detailed in the IDEA but require accommodations to succeed.
Accommodations vs Modifications. Accommodations are any changes made at the school or in the career location that help the individual overcome or work around the disability. Modifications are actual changes in the student’s curriculum (or work duties). For example, needing extra help to accomplish an assignment or a different teaching style or language to grasp the assignment would be an accommodation. Changing the curriculum such as changing the assignments or the subjects that are learned or giving a student a different test, is a Modification. To understand more about the laws that apply, see the links on this site.
Everyone needs help to achieve their best. Many students have neither a 504 or IEP plan and yet need assistance to achieve career goals by careful planning and training in life skills. All students can expect success with a well-rounded educational plan including transition to adulthood with a profitable, rewarding career.