5 Myths and Facts about School Supports (504 Plans and IEPs)
By Sarah Kesty, Executive Function Coach
IEPs and 504 plan meetings can be overwhelming. The jargon, the fast pace, the emotional components all mix together to create some confusing moments. After helping families for nearly 20 years, I've realized there are lingering misunderstandings about special education. Here, I share the top 5 myths and some facts and actions to address them.
Special Education Realities Dispel the Common Fictions
MYTH: I need to wait until the end of the school year to get help for my child with a disability.
FACT: The school team can meet at any time. You don't have to wait for any grading period or date. You can meet before your 504 or IEP is due for review. Anyone on the team can call a meeting.
MYTH: IEPs are always better than 504 plans.
FACT: Sometimes a 504 plan is exactly what a student needs, and not everyone will qualify for an IEP. 504 plans are usually "lighter" than IEPs, in terms of services provided, but they are still incredibly helpful tools. If your child only needs access accommodations, then a 504 is a great option!
MYTH: The school will always fight me for whatever I request.
FACT: Special Education (IEPs) is federally mandated and only partially federally funded. This means that each school district is positioned to be mindful of special education costs. However, many of the strategies and requests you may have are at no cost to anyone or require just a little adjustment for the school team. The law states that funding can never be a reason to deny a student a "Free and Appropriate Education" (FAPE), and services can never cost families money. Districts can refuse your requests, however, if they don't think what you desire is necessary for your child's growth.
MYTH: All special education is separate from the "regular" kids.
FACT: Special education is a service, not a placement. That means services can happen in any location on campus. In fact, the majority of students with special needs get their support in the general education classroom! Often this is done by a team of one special and one general educator.
MYTH: The school team writes the IEP or 504 plan. Parents just have to agree to whatever is presented.
FACT: Parents are vital components to the IEP Team. Your input is required to develop a plan, and your permission must be signed before an IEP can go into effect. You can add, modify or subtract things from the draft IEP or 504 plan presented to you. And, if you need time to think about it, you're always allowed to sign in attendance but wait to sign approval. The team might bring a draft IEP to the meeting, since some documents can be 15-20 pages, but the IEP will be updated during your meeting time as well.
Knowing your parent and student rights, along with debunking some of the common misunderstandings, empowers you to make the most of your meetings. Give yourself grace and space to think, ask questions and make suggestions. While the school team represents expertise on IEPs and 504s, you are the expert on your child! When both perspectives are valued and heard, you can co-create truly effective plans for your child!
About the Author:
Sarah Kesty is an advocate, author, and educator. She hosts the IEP OMG Show and The Executive Function Podcast. Sarah is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and prides herself in using data-driven recommendations and collaborative solutions when working with IEP and 504 teams. Learn more: Sarahkesty.comPre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!