This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from November 1 through November 30. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!
504 and the IEP: Five Steps to Take for Understanding Your Childs Rights
Parenting is a tough job and adding epilepsy to the situation challenges even the fiercest parents. The doctor appointments, the medications, the surgeries, and the constant worry. The last part any parent wants to worry about is the support services for their children within the school system. Children with epilepsy are allowed services but going through the tangled web of educational laws can be confusing. The question is always where do you begin as the parent? Here are my top five rules when looking at 504 plans versus IEPs (Individual Educational Plans) and how to get the services your child needs to be successful at school.
- Know the definition between the 504 and the IEP. A 504 was part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and states that a child may get a plan at school for one if they have a disability that limits part of a major life activity. The 504 does NOT provide the child any legal protections like the IEP can but is more of a modification. These are for children who do not need special needs education classes (Wright and Wright, 2017). A child who broke their leg needs a 504 since they will need accommodations. This is an over simplification of an example, but it works. The IEP is the larger plan for children who need more services and have a classification (or diagnosis) that allows them to have the IEP. There are thirteen main classifications and the IEP does provide legal protection for the student (Wright and Wright, 2017). Yes, your child can have both!
- Epilepsy Training for Staff. Yes! It is true that if your child has an IEP or a 504 plan at school, one of the requirements a parent can request is to have epilepsy and seizure training for all staff at the school. The training is done usually for the all the staff if requested but when I ask for it, I specifically say any teacher, therapist, aide, admin, adult worker or bus driver that encounters my son. This includes lunch personnel or anybody on the playground watching him at recess. He has an IEP so this is covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).
- Please read the Procedural Safeguards booklet. Every time a parent goes to an annual IEP meeting to review their child’s progress, or put a new one in place, the school is required to give you a new procedural safeguards booklet. Take the time to read through this because each state has their own laws that beyond the federal ones. The more knowledge a parent has advocating got their own child, the more power they must make the process a little less stressful.
- Communication is important. Keep a notebook or some form of open communication with the staff working with your child. Let them know signs of what your child’s seizures might look like, any medication changes, triggers, etc. I have come across many school districts that are uncomfortable having children with epilepsy in their school. This stems solely on the fact they have had no training (see #2) and are not aware of what epilepsy is or what to do. This is where the 504 can come into play. The 504 can list what to do in the event of a seizure and what medications your child may be taking. It also lists the doctors, the plan for the nurse, and any documents from the child’s doctors for instructions about swimming, driving, or swinging.
- Classifications for IEP. I will share these because I am asked this question a lot about what qualifies a student for an IEP over just a 504? A child can get an IEP under these classifications: Autism Spectrum (ASD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Intellectual Disability (ID), Orthopedic Impairment, Deaf, Deaf-Blindness, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment, Language Impairment, Emotional Disturbance, Specific Learning Disability (SLD), and/or Other Health Impairment (OHI) (Lee, n.d). Depending on the classification, depends on the type of services your child might be qualified for, so the class is important. If a child has epilepsy and TBI, as a parent get an IEP with a 504.
Keep fighting the good fight! As a parent, you know your child the best. If you get stuck and do not know where to go next, reach out to local support groups. Ask a special education advocate and hire one! (Momma Employee is in WA so remote consults only or workshops if willing to fly me!)
When the special education advocate can no longer offer services, the last resort is a lawyer, but let’s keep it positive!
Love, Momma Employee
Lee, A. (n.d.). The 13 Conditions Covered Under IDEA. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/special-education-basics/conditions-covered-under-idea
Wright, P. and Wright, P. (2017). Special Education Law (2nd Ed.). Hartfield, VA: Harbor House Law Press, Inc.
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