If a child has a disability and needs help in order to learn, they can get support services that will help them to succeed.
Children from age 3-21 should get these services if they qualify.
How does it work?
To qualify, a child must have a disability that affects their learning.
Kids can get some services starting at age 3, even before they start school.
If your child needs specially designed instruction in order to make progress in school, you will work with a school team to decide on a plan of services.
The plan will be described in an Individualized Education Program, or IEP — a legal document the school is required to follow.
Your child might work with a learning specialist inside the regular class, outside the regular class, a combination of both, or possibly in a special class.
If your child just needs some adjustments, or changes in the way they work in the classroom, they will get what we call Accommodations. These will be described in a 504 Plan. (This is not technically "Special Education".)
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How is an IEP different from a 504?
A 504 plan involves adjusting the regular class conditions, but an IEP describes specialized instruction or services.
There are different criteria to qualify for an IEP. A student must have a disability that affects their progress in school, and they must need specialized instruction in order to make effective progress.
An IEP is a legal document that guarantees services according to the federal law, IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. A 504 plan offers Accommodations (rather than services) to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Sources: Federation for Children with Special Needs, IDEA
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The goal is to work in partnership with the school to create a plan that will support your child's needs.
We'll tell you about the whole process, whether you are just starting out or are already getting services.