504 Education plans and services

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In these troubling times, caregivers increasingly seek help and ask a key question: When students with ADHD and learning disabilities learn at home, are their schools obligated to provide them with tools, supports and facilities essential to their academic success? success in the new class called “home?” And what can parents do to ensure their students’ schools step up to provide these tools and address the loss of distance learning?

The implementation of IEP / 504 plans has changed

The United States Department of Education (DOE) released a fact sheet on March 21 that states that public schools must provide continuing appropriate and free public education (FAPE) to students with IEPs and 504 plans “in accordance with the need to protect the health and safety of students. people with disabilities and people who provide… services. Here are some of the highlights from the fact sheet, including the rights you and your child are entitled to:

1. A number of disability-related modifications and services can be effectively delivered online., including homework time extensions, videos with closed captioning, accessible reading material, and many video conferencing speech or language services.

2. The Federal Persons with Disabilities Act allows flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. Determining how FAPE is provided may change during this time of national emergency. You should know that the Stimulus Relief Bill, passed on March 27, gave the DOE 30 days to request waivers of certain special education requirements and during that time it did not reduce student / parent rights to the FAPE.

3. Realize that even in ideal distance learning situations, it is often difficult to individualize teaching. In addition, practical services such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy cannot be offered remotely. A similar problem exists for students whose IEPs include classroom assistance to help the child with attention and / or behavior problems.

[Click to Read: 11 Expert Tips for Schooling Kids with ADHD from Home]

4. Another requirement of the IEP and and 504 plans that cannot be provided within the limits of social distancing is an educational assessment., which is mandated to occur within a specified time following a request made by the parents. However, the IEP and 504 meetings can be arranged by phone or videoconference, which should provide an opportunity to “meet” and discuss changes to the IEPs and 504 plans in accordance with distance learning requirements.

5. Many accommodations in Section 504 plans – extended time for classroom exams or strategies for dealing with a child’s ADHD – may not be essential in home school environmentsbecause many states and school districts are eliminating standardized exams for the rest of the year.

How parents can optimize IEPs and 504 plans

Beyond legal issues, home schooling is proving difficult for many families. Many of the most vulnerable students – those who are homeless, low-income or undocumented – do not have Internet access or computers, despite efforts to increase the availability of services and technology. Parents are expected to guide their children’s education, often while doing their own work remotely. Many parents are not equipped to deal with their child’s curriculum or learning challenges. As one parent shared in an email this morning, “The things they ask us to do are so hard. There are formulas and problems that my daughter has no idea how to solve. I did not go to school for the management of special education.

So what can parents do to help their children reap the benefits of their IEP or 504 plan while learning at home?

[Read: Stick to the Plan! How to Cement Your Child’s New Home Learning Routines]

First of all, parents need to take some preliminary steps:

  • Take a moment to review your child’s IEP or 504 plan, noting the accommodations and supports that have helped them excel in school.
  • Determine if a layout is primarily technological (audiobooks, text-to-speech or text-to-speech software) and determine if the proposed accommodations are working well
  • If any accommodation or support had been provided through direct support from a teacher or through the support of another professional – speech therapy, behavioral support, occupational therapy or physiotherapy – consider how your child is doing in the absence such support when working from home.

Then contact your child’s school. Who you talk to depends on how things are going with home schooling and what meets your child’s needs, but isn’t getting in effectively.

  • If the issues are primarily technological, find out if there is someone at the school acting as the tech reference person for this home schooling period. A brief check with the IEP / 504 teacher, principal or president can point you in the right direction.
  • If the issues relate to missing supports that are usually provided in person, you may be able to contact your child’s therapist directly. If not, contact the class teacher or the IEP / 504 chair to find out how to get in touch with your child’s therapist or how the school plans to provide these important services. One possibility may be to work in a small group or one-on-one on a video platform.

Keep in mind that the teacher and your child’s school are also struggling with this distance learning experience. Providing classroom instruction online is a challenge for teachers, and even the most qualified teacher is unlikely to be as effective as they are in the classroom.

  • Keep lines of communication open with your child’s teachers, but recognize that they can teach while facing their own challenges. Be kind, patient, and firm when expressing your concerns.
  • When you think a problem requires the attention of the IEP / 504 team, insist on getting their attention. Avoid the “blame game”. As you would in an in-person meeting, be collaborative and help everyone you understand need to work together to ensure that your child is not denied FAPE while learning at home.

Compensate for skills that may have been lost

The DOE recognizes that situations may arise where children do not receive services (or sufficient services) during school closures. They specifically note that if this occurs, “a child’s IEP team (or appropriate Section 504 personnel) must individually determine whether and to what extent compensatory services may be required, in accordance with applicable requirements. including to make up for any skill that may have been lost. It’s far from ideal, but parents should keep this in mind for the next school year.

A small glimmer is that learning at home is a unique opportunity to observe, understand and support your children as learners. Does your child have trouble following the complicated explanations of his teacher? Seeing how the teacher presents a lesson, while watching how your child responds, is more enlightening than just reviewing your child’s homework or looking at their exam notes. This time spent together at home can help you better understand how she is learning. Through careful observation, it is possible to identify patterns that help you better understand your child’s learning strengths and challenges and allow you to choose strategies based on that understanding.

[Read This Next: How to Advocate Forcefully for Your Child]


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Updated June 21, 2021

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