I’m feeling a bit like Dorthy right now. Lost and scared about the journey I am on. Which path should I choose?
I am at a crossroad with the education plan for my daughter. As many of you know Pickles is diagnosed with ADHD but speech articulation delays qualified her for an IEP at her elementary school. About a month ago I received a call from her speech teacher informing me that Pickles had met all of her speech goals. Seems like a reason for celebration right?
Wrong! Of course, I’m thrilled that her language skills have improved (she no longer sounds like she comes from the East Coast). Her speech IEP created a legal document with the school district to provide services to improve her speech and accommodations for her ADHD. Unfortunately, now that her speech services are ending this agreement will terminate.
“What about a 504?” This is the question I hear over and over. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 focuses on accommodations, modifications, services, and improved building accessibility to provide access to education. Section 504 does not require public schools to provide an educational program that is individualized to meet the needs of a disabled child with the goal of enabling the child to become independent and self-sufficient. A Section 504 Plan does not have the protections that are available to the child who has an IEP.
In other words, a 504 will provide the accommodations we currently have in place with her IEP. It doesn’t set up a system of checks and balances that will ensure these accommodations lead to a successful future for my daughter.
Two years ago when I was faced with the same decision (speech services ending and the school wanting to move to a 504) I signed the paperwork without a second thought. Now that I know more I’m questioning this decision. I don’t want to make the wrong one!
The problem is she is having a great school year. She has friends, her grades are good and she was just nominated the student of the month by her teacher. I know this is a good problem to have….but I can’t help but see the irony that she has to be failing before special education law/reform identify the need to keep services in place.
I’m in the early phases of educating myself on the nuances of all of this. I’ve already spent several hours reading up on special education law. It is my hope that I can break this down in a way that is easy (or a little less intimidating) for all of us to understand. “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”
What are your experiences with IEPs and 504s? Please share in the comments below.