A new school year is once again upon us! And for those with children who may need a little extra help in their classes, this may be a stressful time. Children with disabilities or impairments may be eligible for modifications or accommodations at school to help them learn and succeed.
Knowing if your child has a disability impacting their learning can be challenging. Usually a student will begin to have poor, down trending grades. He/she may have difficulty remembering to do homework or may struggle to complete it. If this is not brought up by your child’s teacher, you may need to speak up. An evaluation may need to be performed by the school in order to test for certain learning disabilities or other issues. Additionally, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician for developmental, vision, and hearing screens.
Some students qualify for special education services under the federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If eligible, an individualized education plan (IEP) is developed to lay out goals for the school year and describe any services or supports the student may need. Any child age 3 or older with a suspected disability can request a free full individual evaluation from the local public school district. Several categories of eligibility exist, including specific learning disability, hearing/visual impairment, and “other health impairment.”
Other students may qualify for accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These can include supports such as reminders to stay on task, preferential seating in the classroom, shortened assignments, and other items. You can ask your child’s teacher or school counselor for a “504 meeting.”
It is vital to know that your child will only receive services if it has been shown that your child’s learning has been affected by these issues and problems with functioning at school exist. If this is the case, a meeting for either special education or 504 accommodations will involve a plethora of staff (classroom teachers, diagnostician or school psychologist, special education teacher, campus administrator, and others). The group, along with you the parent, decides what the child needs. You, as a parent, will have the option to review the proposals and agree or disagree. Do this to make sure your child is getting all the services he/she may need. Make sure to discuss any changes you would like to be made.
The 504 plan or IEP should be reviewed annually. If you are not seeing appropriate changes to your child’s performance or learning goals – speak up. Ask your child’s pediatrician for any suggestions or recommendations for your child. You are the best advocate for your child!
To learn more, visit:
Kristina Ciaglia, MD