Schools are required by the IDEA Act (federal law) to provide students with disabilities a fair and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). In layman's terms, the delivery of special education support should fall under a continuum from support in traditional classroom settings (inclusion) to self contained.
Your student may qualify for supportive education services if they have a learning disability, health impairment, emotional disturbance, or are considered gifted. I want to stress importance of recognizing that giftedness is a form of neurodiversity and it is important that the child receive appropriate academic support to be successful.
A request (email is best for documentation) for an evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability can be made to your student's principal, counselor, or Local Education Agency (LEA). The school district shall conduct the initial evaluation within 60 business days of receiving written parental consent to determine if your child has a disability. If the request is denied, the LEA must provide written documentation as to why the request was denied. Parents may request an Independent Education Evaluation IEE (§300.502). The IEE is conducted by a professional outside of the school system. If you request an IEE schools must provide you with information about where you might be able to receive an outside evaluation. You may request an IEE at public expense, meaning the school ensures there is no cost to parent. However, schools reserve the right to deny an IEE at public expense. If the school denies the IEE at public expense the parent/guardian is still entitled to an IEE.
An IEP is an individualized education plan for students ages 3-21 in grades K-12. The IDEA ACT states that students with a disability in 13 categories defined below qualify for an IEP.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment, including Blindness
In Louisiana, students that are considered gifted and talented also meet criteria for an IEP. Important to note is that students may also be considered twice exceptional (2e). Meaning, your student may be gifted with a learning disability i.e gifted and diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, Dsylexia etc.
An IEP team consist of the student (determine appropriateness), student's parents, at least 1 regular education teacher, at least 1 special education teacher, school administration, school counselor, nurses, and LEA (the person representing the school district). The LEA is knowledgeable about resources available to the district to support the student. The parent may also invite others (individuals, agencies) with special expertise or knowledge about the child to the meetings.
The timing of the IEP meeting must be convenient for the parent/guardian. Schools will provide the parent/guardian with available dates and times for meetings. You will receive information about who will or will not be present. You can refuse to excuse a vital person from a meeting and ask that the meeting be held at a time in which the person is available. Approval of their absence must be done in writing (you will be asked to sign to excuse their absence).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights act that bans discriminatory practices against people with disabilities. Your student may not require a special education but they may need additional support at school. That support can come in the form of modifications and accommodations. Schools will put together a 504 plan to best meet the needs of the student.
Students that have difficulties with emotional regulation, have had out of home placements that may impact learning, sever and or chronic illnesses, and other unique needs may also qualify for 504 plans.
504 and IEP Plans Differ
-504 plans are not part of special education.
-504 and IEP's fall under two separate laws and operate differently. IEPs fall under the protection of the IDEA Act while 504 plans fall under the protection of the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
-IEP plans are required by law to be written. 504 plans are not required by law to be written.
-Schools receive federal funding for students with IEPs.
-IEPs by law are required to be reviewed annually. 504 plans are not required by law to be reviewed annually.
-The law specifies the makeup of an IEP team. The law does not specify the make up of a 504 plan team.
-IEPs require documentation of measurable growth. 504 plans do not require documentation of measurable growth.
Normalize the Plan
Whether your student receives a 504 plan or IEP, normalize the use of such plans. Include your student in the development of the plan every step of the way. Your student will have already been exposed to other students perceptions about receiving such services. Those perceptions significantly impact your students outlook. It is normal for your student to attempt to persuade you to drop services or ask educators to treat them the same as other students. However, bending to their will can be to their detriment.
At times the road will be hard. Identify your people. People that understand you, support you, and will provide you with resources to best meet your students needs. There are local agencies, social media groups, informative social media pages, blogs, and federal laws that can help guide your way.
And if no one has told you today, YOU GOT THIS!