It is time to go back to school. You want your child to have the best year yet and to learn and grow. Perhaps your child needs more than pens and paper to get through the year. You’ve heard of plans to help children with special needs succeed in school but perhaps you thought they were only for kids with learning disabilities. The truth is, if your child has a chronic condition that can affect their performance and attendance at school, he or she can qualify for one of the two plans.
First there are individualized education plans (IEPs), legal documents that ensure your child receives any accommodations that are included in the plan in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to the IDEA, the qualifying factors of a disability include: “a child evaluated … as having mental retardation, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance … an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, another health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.” The plan is very structured.
Then there are the 504 plans, which are not as strict and are written in compliance with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act. These plans assist students with much broader conditions. Under 504 plans a disability is more loosely defined as: a person who “(i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment”. This can include conditions from asthma to cancer.
If you think your child could benefit from one of these plans, talk to your school. The school will evaluate your child and decide on which plan of action to take. Here’s what you should know and do to be prepared.
* Learn the language of these plans and review sample plans.
* Learn your child’s rights.
* When writing a plan, be as specific as possible with close attention to detail.
* When attending the meetings, bring your child’s specialist or information from the foundation of your child’s condition.
* Tell your child’s teachers what you do at home that works for your child.
* Be prepared for the meetings with medical records, progress reports, therapy reports, etc.
* Bring the plan home to review before signing.
Be ready to be aggressive and be the best advocate you can be for your child. This is the best way to get your child the complete education that she deserves.