Becoming familiar with the laws surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is daunting and sometimes even scary.  Parents hear the educational jargon and it sounds like Greek.  Even parents whose child has been receiving services through Special Education for years still may feel like they’re not as up to date on things as they should be.  

Below are some resources that you can start with to become more familiar with IDEA and ADA, but first things first:  

What’s the difference between a 504 and an IEP?

A 504 Plan is a plan designed for people who may have a physical or mental limitation to one or more life activities.  These children may need some specific accommodations put into place for them so they are able to connect with the classroom instruction.  Students are educated in the general setting with their peers. A child who has Diabetes is a perfect example of this.  He or she may need to have extra bathroom breaks or be allowed to carry water into class and drink it throughout the day. 

An IEP is just that: an Individualized Education Plan where children become eligible in one or more of 13 eligibility categories. Through what is called Child Find, parents and schools evaluate a student, meet as a team, and together, the team comes up with an educational plan that allows for the student to connect with the classroom instruction.  He or she may need some Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) to get to access the curriculum, like visual notes or access to a laptop. Others may need another teacher in the classroom to assist with instruction.  Students should be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) that affords them the same opportunities as their non-disable peers.

The links below can help you understand a little bit more about IDEA and 504:

  • An Acronym Glossary: Created by the Georgia Parent Teacher Association, this page has all the special education acronyms spelled out on one page.   
  • Wrights Law.  This is the go-to site for any parent or educator who has a specific question regarding IDEA.  It’s so full of information that it gets overwhelming, so stick to specifics.
  • A Day in Our Shoes:  This is a mom who also has a child with special needs.  Like most advocates, the IEP process is personal to us, and she details a lot of helpful information.
  • Understood: Based out of New York, Understood is a non-profit advocacy group designed to help parents with children who have learning or attention problems. 

There are many, many more websites that can help parents and guardians navigate special education.  If after looking through some of them, you still feel that you need someone on your side of the table, please reach out to me, and I will be happy to help as best I can.  

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