IEP? 504? Can someone please explain what this means for my child and their success in school??
Of course, I can! I have been teaching in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for the last 16 years. I am going to start off by screaming at you (bear with me, I promise it is for your own good)–YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S BIGGEST ADVOCATE!!!
Children come in all different shapes and sizes and they learn in all types of different ways! Teaming up with your child’s teacher is the first way to help your child fulfill their potential. If you and/or the teacher have concerns about your child’s progress, there has to be data to back that up. For example, they may take the data from the i-Ready (a computer program that focuses on math and reading) Diagnostic to gauge the strengths and areas for growth for your child, or they may use the previous year’s SAT/FSA scores. From there, the students are placed in Intervention in order for them to address the needs of your child.
Okay… Now what?
So let’s say you get a diagnosis of ADHD from your child’s neurologist; you can apply for a 504 plan. This plan would help your child’s teacher understand what needs your child may have and allow your child to have extra time. This plan is an option if your child has any disability that does not let them perform in a general education setting. This means they need a little extra help or extra time, but can still function in a traditional classroom setting.
Now let’s say your child has a specific learning disability. Then, there would be a need for an IEP (Individual Education Plan). This is a more comprehensive plan that needs a team of people, including yourself, the teacher, the special education chairperson at your assigned school, the administration, as well as the school psychologist. Your child must be identified as falling under one of the 13 categories as established by the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Once your child is identified through testing (with your consent), the process begins. You will have meetings and provide input on the progress of your child.
Your child’s teacher will be provided with a copy of the IEP in order to provide the specialized instruction your child needs. Your child may need to be placed in a specialized setting or may be in a general education classroom with a special education teacher to assist in meeting their needs.
I am so overwhelmed…
Please do not worry. Once you establish communication with your child’s teacher, they will lead you in the right direction. Take it step-by-step and voice your concerns when needed. I have seen much success with students of all abilities once a plan was established! Another key point is to not shy away from this process because you are afraid of a label. These plans will ensure your child receives what they need and can even transfer over into college. Can you say hello extra time for the SAT?