IEP and 504 Accommodations
Once you have a formal diagnosis for your child’s learning challenges, what follows depends on whether he/she is attending a public or private school.
Private schools are not legally required to support a child with special education needs. If they do so, it is out their own will. However, there are some private schools that cater mainly to special education students (such as Charles Armstrong in Belmont, CA. Check our Service Providers Directory for more options).
Public schools, on the other hand, are legally required to offer support through an IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 Accommodation Plans, providing interventions and modifications for a child that is diagnosed with any one of the 13 conditions supported by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
An IEP is a plan for a child’s special education experience at school. It is developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law, and is attending a public elementary or secondary educational institution, receives specialized instruction and related services. Depending on the need of the child, an IEP allows for intervention services such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Additional Math and Reading tutorials, an aide in the classroom or a resource specialist.
504 Accommodation Plan
A 504 Accommodation is a plan for how a child will have access to education at school. It is developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending a public elementary or secondary educational institution, receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment. A 504 Plan is monitored by teachers.
How to determine if an IEP is SMART or a 504 plan is appropriate
A quick and easy way to determine if an IEP is useful is to is make sure it is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Action words, Result-Oriented/Relevant and Time bound.
An example, an IEP goal for Math in Grade 3 could be:
Given a two step math word problem the child will: (Specific and Relevant)
identify the information needed, identify the correct operation [+ – x ÷],
set up the math problem, solve the problem correctly (Action words)
85% of the time (Measurable and Result Oriented) in 3 out of 5
opportunities (Time bound).
An example of 504 accommodations for Math would be: the use of a calculator or a multiplication table chart, a math graphic organizer that aids the child in following the steps, large print homework or requiring the child to work on grid paper.
An example of an IEP for English Reading would be: after one year of specialized instruction, once a week for one hour, the student will be able to decode words at the 25th percentile level as measured by the decoding score of the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT).
An example of an 504 Accommodation for English reading would be: sitting next to the teacher, step-by-step instructions written out, large print text, frequent breaks, no penalty for spelling mistakes other than in spelling tests, sensory tools such as fidget toys, etc.
An intervention is targeted instruction to improve a specific skill and are based on a child’s needs. It is a supplement to the general education program. Interventions use evidence-based strategies and techniques and help students improve a skill or learn to apply existing skills to new situations. Time with a resource specialist such as an occupational or speech therapist, classroom aide, reading specialist, psychologist, or programs such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Socialization for autistic kids are examples of interventions. Such interventions are possible only through an IEP, and not through a 504 Accommodation.
Kids who are far behind their peers may need changes or modifications to the curriculum. For example, a student could be assigned shorter or easier reading passages. Kids who receive modifications are not expected to learn the same material as their classmates. Also when they finish high school, they may not have all the credentials required by competitive colleges (for example, A through G requirements in California are required to apply to apply to state-funded schools).
Once the parents and teacher or case manager sign off on the IEP, the school is required to implement it. IEPs, 504s and other modifications and interventions are monitored, revisited and revised regularly. Parents may request a meeting earlier than scheduled if they feel something is not working and needs to be removed, changed or modified. Each state in the U.S. follows a specific timeline for the process and schools are legally bound to this timeline.