What is Special Education Plan? It’s not the same as a 504 Plan, right?
That’s right. Special Education is “specially designed instruction,” to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. It is provided at no cost to children or families and is governed by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Every state is required to follow the law set down in the IDEA and put those rules into their own state’s laws.
Students who qualify for Special Education require special instruction in order to participate and/or learn in the school setting. The location of this instruction may or may not be in a special classroom. Sometimes schools can assist a student in their regular education classroom and, in fact, schools are required to provide instruction for students in the ‘least restrictive environment.’
This means that if a student is able to make adequate progress in a general education setting, they should receive their education there, rather than being pulled out for instruction in a special education classroom. Schools often make the recommendations about where the education will take place, but students and families should participate in all decisions regarding their student’s education.
Schools get into trouble when they create an IEP and do not follow it. If your child is not making progress, then this would be a reason to call an education law attorney. If you feel your child is being singled out and his or her issues are not being addressed, this is a good reason to call for a consult. If your child is being repeatedly disciplined for behavior that is related to his or her disability, call Michelle immediately for a consult.
How do I know if my child qualifies for Special Education?
Once a student is even being considered or evaluated to determine whether or not they will need Special Education services, the protections of Special Education laws apply to them. As Michelle has told school districts, if you think or have reason to think that a student might need Special Education, they should be treated as a Special Education student.
Students qualify for Special Education based on an evaluation that is done by a school psychologist. Students can qualify for Special Education in one or several of 13 different areas.
How do I get started on a Special Education plan for my child?
Anybody can ask the school to evaluate their child. The process is called making the child “a focus of concern.” It should be done in writing and should outline specific concerns or areas of concern regarding the child’s difficulties in school.
Is dyslexia covered in a either a 504 Plan or a Special Education Plan?
It depends on your child’s evaluation. If the child’s dyslexia is severe enough to keep him or her from accessing the curriculum, that’s Special Education. If the child needs more time on reading assignments, that might be a 504 Plan.
Once the evaluation is completed and your student qualifies for special education, then a team of people (including you) are invited to create a plan to help your child succeed in school. This is called an IEP team. IEP stands for Individualized Educational Program.
What’s an IEP Team?
The IEP requires that a team of people make decisions about many aspects of the student’s education. The team should consist of the student (if they are capable of participating), the parent(s) or guardian, a special education teacher, a general education teacher, the school psychologist and a representative of the public agency such as the principal or vice principal, and any other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child.
What do I do if the school wants to initiate special education services and I feel overwhelmed or don’t know what they’re talking about?
Finding out that your child is struggling in school is difficult for any parent. When you feel overwhelmed, it can be a good time to seek out resources and information. Michelle knows the law and understands the process of educational evaluations. She can be a resource for answering your questions regarding the process.