Perhaps you’re here because your child is struggling in school, and it is more than you can manage at home. Never fear, dear parents; there is a system in place. 

In 1975, under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), the first IEPs were implemented in public schools. Before this time, children with disabilities were not permitted to attend with their peers. Thankfully, the passage of this act granted neurodiverse and struggling students a legal right to education. A lot has changed since the 1970s, and in 2023, every child has an equal opportunity in K-12 public schools. 

What is an IEP in simple terms?

Simply put, an IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. It is a legally binding road map that defines the accommodations, support, and services needed to support the learning and development of a child from age 3 to high school graduation. This support plan falls under the umbrella of IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Act, and plans are available for eligible students in Florida’s K-12 Public Schools.

Who qualifies for an IEP in Florida?

There are 13 qualifying disability categories. (GR3-2011.p65 ( This disability must be proven to hinder the child’s ability to learn, and the team must show a track record of poor academic performance. 

The process typically takes 60 days. The initial eligibility phase requires parental requests in writing, 30 days for the school team to determine the need, and 30 days to create an individualized plan. The school will work with you to discuss your child’s previous progress and listen to your concerns. Assessments may be given to your child’s teachers and pediatrician, too. The school team will revisit the IEP every 12 months to ensure objectives are met and modify if necessary.

Can you have an IEP and a 504?

The short answer is no. In fact, IEP and 504 are two separate support documents. A 504 covers a broad range of disabilities and is obtained through the Guidance Department, while an IEP is only initiated if a child holds one or more of the 13 disabilities covered under IDEA. Additionally, IEPs are created with a team of ESE (Exceptional Student Education) specialists who will work with your child’s teacher to implement the plan. 

Additionally, the implementation of an IEP allows parents to request an IEE, or Independent Educational Evaluation, at the cost of the district. 

Why advocate for your child and ask for an IEP in Public Schools?

It takes a village. The support and interventions provided for struggling learners are invaluable, and an IEP is a free and legally binding set of accommodations and resources for the students who need it most. This document will create clear-cut guidelines for assisting your child in his or her key area of need.

Ultimately, it is your choice. As a parent, you should feel empowered to advocate for your child and reinforce the foundation of his or her learning. While some may pay for tutors, play therapy, and further evaluations, just knowing your child’s public school provides complimentary assistance for struggling learners is a comfort. Consider speaking with the members of the multidisciplinary team at your child’s school to initiate an individualized plan for your child today.