Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Being an advocate for your child

Dear Life,

As parents, sometimes you are forced into situations that you don't feel comfortable with.  I will say after 8 years of working with my oldest who has ADD with both IEP's and 504's I cringe when those acronyms come up.  My stomach starts to churn and I start to throw up in my mouth.  

Below is the definition of both terms and the subtle differences. 

IEP Defined

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

504 Plan Defined

The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

Subtle but Important Differences

Not all students who have disabilities require specialized instruction. For students with disabilities who do require specialized instruction, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) controls the procedural requirements, and an IEP is developed. The IDEA process is more involved than that of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and requires documentation of measurable growth. For students with disabilities who do not require specialized instruction but need the assurance that they will receive equal access to public education and services, a document is created to outline their specific accessibility requirements. Students with 504 Plans do not require specialized instruction, but, like the IEP, a 504 Plan should be updated annually to ensure that the student is receiving the most effective accommodations for his/her specific circumstances.

When I started this process I didn't know ANYTHING and I assumed (wrongly) that the teachers and district would look out for my son and keep his best interest at heart. 
I thought that I didn't have to or need to really research, read, and question the teachers and administrators. 
I didn't realize that I don't have to sign anything until I am completely satisfied that my child will be getting the services he or she needs.  
I also didn't realize until too late that once the child goes into high school there are way too many students with issues and the only person that is going to advocate for your child and communicate with everyone is YOU.  
Call me a helicopter parent if you will, but the squeaky wheel gets the oil.   
Something I learned from my son's doctor this week:  limited funds at the K-12 schools means the less you advocate the less you will get.  Once your child gets into college there is unlimited funds and no one uses them (because the students don't advocate for themselves.)  
Don't listen to anyone...your child CAN be successful.  I had a doctor tell my son to his face that he would never get into the college he wanted to get into.  That changed my boy....he lost a lot of faith in himself after that.   

I have a whole lot of IEP's and 504's ahead of me...I have learned a few more things that I will share next time.  

Sorry for all of you folks who don't have kids or the need for this conversation.  I wish I could just talk about how to grow out my hair and which nail polish I want to would be WAY more fun! :)

1 comment :

  1. IEPs are my specialty now, LOL. I have a graduating senior this year that has been on an IEP since 2nd grade, my son obviously is on an IEP (oh yea, can we say cast of MILLIONS at his meetings?!) and now my youngest is on one too... sigh. I think half of my life is reviewing goals, meeting bench marks and attending meeting to FIGHT for what my children need. On the up side, something I have done must have stuck... on a recent college campus visit the SECOND question my graduating senior asked is "where is the diablites assistance office and how do I access services?" Proof she loearned something through the process!

    Hang in there momma... you will master it all too!


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