Education:

One of the biggest mountains that you need to forge in raising your child, is the education system.  This is a system designed to educate the masses, not cater to the needs of each child.  Although most educators and administrators have the best intentions, they have a nearly impossible job of getting through a set curriculum at a fast and steady pace to prepare all of the students for standardized testing.  Your child is just a tiny fish in the big pond. You are their advocate.  You need to be the squeaky wheel to get them what they need to be successful in the education system.

In public education, you have two paths that you can follow to get services for your child. Getting an IEP or a 504 plan.  However, this is a decision that not necessarily yours to make. 

IEP:

  If you think that your child can't get what they need in the regular education setting and that they need specialized instruction and/ or accommodations to be successful, make a request for an official evaluation to determine if they are eligible for an IEP.

504:

 If your child has a current medical or psychiatric diagnosis, and you feel that they require special accommodations in the school, you can request a 504 plan.  (If they did not meet the criteria for and IEP, or you want to avoid a Special Education label, a 504 plan is a great alternative).

Find out more about the difference here ->

IEP (Individual Education Plan):

This is the key to getting services, accommodations, and a major voice in the educational process of your child.

To see if your child is eligible for an IEP, you have to first make a request to the school in writing stating that you would like them to formally evaluate your child.  Get sample evaluation request letters here ->

At this point, the school has 60 school days to have their psychologist formally test your student, make observations, and collect data from staff.  The psychologist will write a report detailing all of the compiled information and determine if they meet the requirements for an IEP.  If they do, you will then be contacted to attend an IEP meeting.  This meeting will include parents, teachers, an administrator, the psychologist, and any other service providers like SLP, OT, or PT.  

What an IEP must contain:

  1. The child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.

  2. How the child’s disability affects their involvement in the general education curriculum.

  3. A statement of measurable annual goals.

  4. How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured, and when periodic progress reports will be provided.

  5. What Special Education and related services will be provided and the frequency, location, and duration of those services and modifications.

  6. What supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child.

  7. The program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided.

  8. The amount of time that the child will not participate with nondisabled children.

  9. A statement of any individual accommodations on state and district wide assessments.

  10. If the student will not take state assessments, a statement of why the child cannot participate in the regular assessment and why alternate assessment selected is appropriate for the child.

504 Plan:

To get a 504, a child has to have a disability which can include learning, attention, or medical issues that interferes with their ability to learn.  They need to be under the treatment of a physician who can write a letter on your child’s behalf.

The 504 plan does not require an official evaluation.  Once you provide proof to the school that your child meets the requirements, then a 504 meeting will be held with their teacher and an administrator to make a plan for accommodations within the general education classroom.  These are things that will make learning and success more achievable in the classroom like extended time on test or frequent breaks to get up and move around.

Sample accommodations that you can request in a 504 or IEP:

  • Review of directions

  • Assistance in organization

  • Weekly home-school communication

  • Space for movement or breaks

  • Study sheets and study guids

  • Highlighted instructions or answer spaces

  • Graph paper to assist in organizing or lining up math problems

  • Use of computers, ipads, and calculators

  • Books on tape

  • Graphic organizers

  • Quiet place to calm down when anxious

  • Preferential seating

  • Answers to be dictated

  • Use of manipulatives

  • No penalty for spelling errors or sloppy handwriting

  • Rest breaks

  • Agenda book and checklists

  • Daily check-in with teacher

  • Adjusted assignment timelines

  • Visual daily schedule

  • Simplified test wording

  • Computerized spell-check support

  • Word bank of choices for answers to test questions

  • Projects instead of written reports

  • Breaks between tasks

  • Daily feedback to student

  • Use de-escalating strategies

  • Use positive reinforcement

  • Have parent sign homework

  • Have parent sign behavior chart

Please take the time to watch this amazing video of Jonathan Mooney talking about his experiences growing up with LD and ADHD.  He speaks about the ways that he was able to reframe his learning differences into a strength.  The lecture itself is about an hour long, but well worth it!  Make a bowl of popcorn, pour a glass of wine and enjoy... 

"Folks don't have disability, they experience disability in environments that aren't accessible and inclusive."

                            ~Jonathan Mooney