As the school year begins to wind down, parents have a pretty good idea about how their children are doing in school. If your child has struggled with learning or behavior problems, and these struggles have had an impact on their success in school, (poor grades, discipline problems or both) then your child may be in need of an IEP or 504 Plan.
An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a specific plan designed by a school team to address your child's needs in an area where they need additional academic or behavioral support in school. It will create specific goals to address these needs, and identify measurable objectives to help meet those goals. 504 Plans are more general plans created to identify accommodations your child needs to help them access the school curriculum or other services.
Both IEPs and 504 Plans are mandated by federal laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504.) Both laws require school districts to identify students with disabilities in their district that require one or the other to access a free appropriate public education.
If you think your child may have a learning or behavioral disability you should request, in writing, that your school test your child to see if they qualify for services. If your child regularly sees a doctor or mental health care provider for medical needs that may be related to their struggles at school, you should ask them to write a letter to the school to support your request for testing.
If you request testing for your child and the school refuses, or if the school agrees to conduct the test, but then determines that your child does not qualify for services after reviewing the evaluation, you have the right to challenge those decisions. At this point, you might want to seek legal counsel to determine if the school has incorrectly denied your child the right to an IEP or 504 Plan.