What happens if your child needs more support in school than the school is currently providing?  What options do you have?  Parents often do not realize there are laws that protect their children and ensure that each child gets the support needed to succeed.

Many parents are unfamiliar with the routes that can be utilized to gain support.  A 504 Plan is a plan for children who have a disability (this includes medical issues) that need accommodations to access their education equally. It gives Federal protections. For example, if a child has diabetes, they can get a 504 plan that states what the school (nurse included) must do to keep the child safe and able to learn in the school environment. 504 plans do not require extended evaluations in school. Often a medical doctor’s note is enough to get this process started. You must get a doctor’s note classifying your child with a medical condition. This plan can then be put in effect rather quickly. However, there are limited parental rights.

An IEP is an individual educational plan. In order to qualify for an IEP, a child must have a disability that fits into one of the IDEA eligibility categories. In New Jersey, it is generally given to students with a learning disability. For example, a child with a reading disability (even dyslexia) in New Jersey can qualify for an IEP if an evaluation shows that their disability significantly impacts their performance. The child would then be given a classification as IEP with the qualification of SLD (specific learning disability). This would be placed directly on the IEP (usually on the front cover). 

The IEP has progress monitoring and goals and designs a program of instruction for the child, not simply accommodations. It may give a child pull out or push in remedial support in reading and writing, occupational therapy, speech, and more. Many parents do not know that it can be given to students with a behavioral disability (like autism or ADHD) that impacts their learning. IEPs that are done for students with behavioral disabilities/disorders are typically called an IEP with the qualification of OHI (other health impairment). If warranted, this can entitle a child to the same services as a child with an SLD qualification. It often can include counseling in school and social skills groups. A child needs to be evaluated by a school district for services to qualify for this. This process includes evaluations that consist of an IQ Examination and an achievement test. There are often Occupational Therapy Assessments, Speech Assessments, Functional Behavioral Assessments, and other kinds of assessments also included. 

Children with ADHD may have a 504 Plan or an IEP, depending on the impact of the disorder on the child’s educational performance. Any child with a disability can have a 504. In comparison, an IEP is much more thorough and provides a child with many more services than a 504. Parents of children who question which is better for their child often start with a 504 simply because it is faster and easier to get.Unlike an IEP, a 504 Plan does not require parental input when developing a plan. This means that school can unilaterally decide what plan they believe works best for your child without asking you for feedback or support in implementing this plan. There is no progress monitoring or goals outlined in a 504. This means that the school is under no obligation for your child to do better in school or meet specific milestones.  There is no objective way to track whether the plan the school put into place is actually helping your child. Hence, it’s often necessary to move toward an IEP. Unlike a 504, an IEP requires parents to be included and protects parents with procedural safeguards.

If you are concerned that your district or school is not evaluating your child, you are concerned that the evaluation is not correctly determining what condition your child has, or you are concerned that your child is not receiving the proper support, you can contact Jennifer Levy, Esq. at Raff and Raff. As a former principal and teacher, she is not only an attorney but a Mom to a special needs student. She can help you. Call today at  (973) 742-1917 or email her at jenni@raffandraff.com to set up a consultation appointment. Do not let schools deny your child the right to succeed. All children can be successful if given the opportunity.


Jennifer Levy, Esq.