Ensuring that your child has a safe, productive, and healthy experience at school takes a lot of work when affected by a learning disability or brain-related condition. Fortunately, schools are ready and able to help if you know how to navigate the special education system. Here are some tips to get you started finding help for your child at school.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
Your child’s first line of support at school is their classroom teacher. Their teacher is the person who spends the most time with your child and is most aware of their needs and challenges. Most teachers will be eager to help your child in any way they can, and they will likely have suggestions about support strategies they can implement in the classroom. Make the most of regular conferences with your child’s teacher by asking plenty of questions, and don’t hesitate to reach out directly to the teacher any time you have concerns.
Learn About Your Child’s Legal Rights
You and your child have legal protections regarding education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws guarantee every child the right to a free and equal education regardless of disabilities. Although your state might differ from other states in how it implements the process, these protections are federal law and apply to your child no matter where you live in the United States. Therefore, before you begin the formal process of seeking support for your child, make sure you understand how these laws determine what your school is required to do.
Make a Formal Request for an Evaluation
In most cases, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a Section 504 plan establishes the support and accommodations your school will provide for your child. The first step in getting one of these plans for your child is submitting a formal request in writing to your school’s principal. After receiving the request, the school administration will determine whether your child qualifies for a special education plan and if so, create a plan to support your child specifically.
Follow Up and Stay Informed
Your job doesn’t end when a special education plan is in place. You’ll need to stay in touch with your child’s classroom teacher and other special educators who work with your child. Attend all regular conferences and any meetings set up by the school. Actively ask questions, and give the school feedback about what’s working and isn’t. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you see any adjustments the school could make to the plan to serve your child’s needs better.