Midway through the school year is a good time to evaluate your child’s academic progress. You might be concerned about your child’s current school environment. Not all children can handle a typical education environment. Alternatively, you might be concerned about your child’s education plan.
Finding the right plan is complicated. Some learners need to have the curriculum re-taught. Other students need structured literacy methods like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, or might need more hands-on methods of learning like touch math and/or access to graphic organizers. Students might need extended time for tests or require audiobooks to help them comprehend the material. You might question whether the school really understands your child’s needs. It can become apparent that despite all attempts to accommodate a student, nothing seems to work.
Are you feeling like your child’s academic needs are being met?
If your child has an IEP or a 504 Plan, your school is required to make accommodations specific to your child based on how he or she learns. Your child might be pulled out of class to receive proper instruction or integrated into a general education classroom. He or she might be eligible to receive related services such as speech therapy and/or occupational therapy. There is no one size fits all approach and the current plan may need to be reevaluated to better suit your child.
Are there other school options for students with learning disabilities?
Sometimes, no matter what you try, a parent should explore other options. We are lucky to have many special purpose schools in Northeast Ohio that can meet the needs of your child. Whether your child is dyslexic, ADHD, autistic or just needs academic respite, there might be a more suitable match for your child. Plus, the Jon Peterson grant offers scholarship money for those with an IEP in the state of Ohio.
Attending an IEP or 504 plan meeting can be intimidating for parents. Walking into a crowded office with an intervention specialist, a classroom teacher, the school principal, the director of special education and a speech therapist compounds the overwhelming concern for the immediate situation. Does your child have a learning disability? What special actions must be taken? How will this positively or negatively affect your child’s attitude toward school or the future?
It’s important to understand that the goal of your child’s school is to provide your child a free and appropriate education (FAPE) that may include an IEP or 504 plan that offers accommodations and/or services. These services allow your child to learn in the most effective way and access the curriculum.
The problem, however, is that some state and local education agencies are reluctant to use the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, when those terms are applicable. If your student has trouble recognizing the letters of the alphabet, struggles to match letters to sounds, has difficulty learning new words and has trouble rhyming, these are signs that he/she may have dyslexia. When your learner is in the middle school and he/she struggles with reading and spelling, grasping a pencil or using proper grammar, this could be a sign of dysgraphia. Likewise, a young child who struggles with processing mathematical equations may be coping with dyscalculia.
Nevertheless, some schools will not place these terms on important documents. Perhaps, it’s over concern for labeling a child. Whatever the reason, it does a disservice to parents and children to avoid these terms. Identifying the problem is the start at finding a proper solution.
There is good news: Michael K. Yudin, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the United States Department of Education, released a letter in October 2015 that should bring encouragement to parents and educators....
If your child has a learning disability or requires accommodations to learn in the classroom, there are a host of specialized services available to your child under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Understanding what your child qualifies for and how to access those services can be a challenge. However, below is a snapshot to help understand those services.
What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 Plan is based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on physical disabilities. This federal law requires schools to eliminate any barriers that prevent students with disabilities from participating fully in their education. It also ensures that accommodations and support services are provided to students so they have equal access to education.
Who is eligible for a 504 Plan?
504 Plans are available for public school students who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity such as reading or concentrating. This impairment must be documented after the school performs an evaluation to validate whether the disability limits the ability to learn and participate in the general education classroom. The evaluation can include a variety of questions reviewing the student’s tests and quizzes or classwork within a class day, or it may be a more formal evaluation with multiple education professionals – but it varies by school district.
What types of accommodations can I expect for my student with a 504 plan?
While a 504 Plan is appropriate when a student has a physical disability, it focuses primarily on how a child will have access to learning at school. For example, a 504 Plan might require a student’s classroom be wheelchair accessible, braille workbooks be provided for a blind student or a sign language translator be involved in the classroom for a student who is deaf.
If your toddler has been diagnosed with special needs, early intervention is available to ensure their educational needs are met prior to starting preschool.
Lisa Curtis, an elementary special educator with the Cleveland Municipal School District, has navigated the process both as a professional and as a parent of triplets who received early intervention during infancy.
“In the best-case scenario, if your child has special needs, getting started with (programs such as) Help Me Grow before age 3 will help address issues during this critical learning period and aid in a more seamless transition into the school system,” Curtis explained.
Help Me Grow is a program funded by the state that’s available free of charge to families with children from birth to age 3. Parents can request an evaluation personally without the need for a physician’s referral.
According to Lori Maygo, general manager of assistive technology and children’s services at the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, joint visits with Help Me Grow and other community partners enable the board of developmental disabilities to build a comprehensive list of services for kids in early intervention, addressing three separate categories: social, emotional and relationships; children acquiring knowledge and skills; and taking action to meet their needs.
“We work with the families wherever their natural environments are,” Maygo says. “So if their issues are with their child not being able to participate in community activities, going to the library or going out to eat, that’s where we go. If their issues are transitioning to and from car rides or to the grocery store, that’s where we go.”
The objective of early intervention is to help transition families to whatever destination they feel is most appropriate for them after they age out of the program, whether it be a public or private preschool, Head Start, child care or home schooling....