Monday, August 26, 2019

Starting the School Year with an IEP or 504 Plan

It's not uncommon for parents to tell us about issues with getting their child services or accommodations early in the school year. The stories tend to be similar: there was an IEP or 504 meeting the previous spring, where the team (including the parents) agreed upon the setting, services and/or accommodations the child would be receiving during the upcoming year. These might be the same school setting, services, and accommodations as in the past, or they could be modified based on how the student performed or what updated evaluation showed.

Most of the time there is a  smooth carryover to the new school year. The student reports to the agreed upon school or class, the teacher is aware that the student has an IEP or a 504 Plan and has had a chance to review it, and the specialists who will be working with the student (providing speech and language services, reading support, or other related services) begin their work with the student within the first week or two of the start of school.

Sometimes, however, the process does not go as well. In the worst cases, a student may be told that they don't have a seat at the school they expected to attend. Other times, related services may not be provided during the first few weeks of school because of lack of staff. Not infrequently, children who expect door-to-door bus service to school find that they don't get a pick up.

So, what are parents to do? Fortunately, you can find specific suggestions from organizations that specialize in supporting students and families.

  • For students in New York City, Advocates for Children of New York has detailed information on a variety of these issues, from failure to receive services, to lack of transportation, to not having a seat in the school your child expected to attend. 
  • Wherever you may live, our colleagues at Understood have an excellent article, "How Do I Get My Child’s IEP Going at the Beginning of the School Year?" , that sets out suggestions for immediate problems and ways to avoid such issues in the future. An important point that the author makes is that tone is important. "Delays in starting up IEP services are frustrating. But parents who escalate tensions with the school may not make as much progress as parents who remain calm and cooperative."
  • Some ideas for monitoring whether your child is getting the services to which he or she is entitled, and possible remedies if services are not delivered after a reasonable period, can be found on the Wrightslaw website. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Yan Berthemy on Unsplash

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