School Refusal Hope

IEPs and 504 plans


 

The I

EP

 

The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

 

Section

504

 

The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

 

The IEP vs 504

 

I have spent many hours trying to educate myself about this very question. I am going to refer you to Lisa from a day in our shoes. She does an awesome job boiling it down to the simplest and most important facts. Wrightlsaw (my go to!)also has an easy to digest comparison written by Pat Howey.

IEPs

There are 14 categories of special education as defined by the individuals with disabilities education (IDEA):

  • Autism

  • Deaf blindness

  • Deafness

  • Developmental delay

  • Emotional disturbance *

  • Hearing impairment

  • Intellectual disability

  • Orthopedic impairment

  • Multiple disabilities

  • Other health impairment 

  • Specific learning disability

  • Speech or language impairment

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Visual impairment-including blindness

If you look at the characteristics (below) for an emotional disturbance, it makes sense that kids with school refusal meet the criteria.

*IDEA defines an emotional disturbance that qualifies for special education as the following:

A condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time into a marked degree that “adversely affects”* a child’s educational performance:

A. And inability to learn but can’t cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

B. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

C. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

D. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

E. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Logic would tell us:

  • If your child cannot attend school, then he cannot get into a classroom environment and this is obviously affecting his ability to learn.

  • If your child is not in school, he is not socializing with his peers or interacting with teachers, so this probably affects his ability to build satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

  • Your child’s inability to get to school or crying/yelling/tantrums associated with fears of going to school, is inappropriate behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

  • If your child is scared and unable to attend school, he may have a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

  • And most likely your child has fears associated with this problem of not attending school and also have physical symptoms as well.

    *Adversely Affects

    Notice the phrase “adversely affects” educational performance appears in the disability definitions. This does not mean, however that a child has to be falling in school to receive special education and related services. According to IDEA, states must make a free appropriate public education available to any individual child with a disability, who needs special education and related services, even if the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade, and is advancing from grade to grade.

This is very important to note because different school systems may use their own definitions for “adversely affects”. Some schools may define adversely affects as failing grades. It can take a long time to actually see falling grades as your child is falling apart.  If your school does not interpret this definition correctly as stated in IDEA, you should read the federal law and state your case. If you are getting absolutely nowhere, you may consider hiring an educational consultant or a special education lawyer. 

In order for the child study team to qualify a child for services under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP):

They must be found to have one of the 14 Characteristics of special education (above)

and

it must adversely affect their educational performance.

If your school’s interventions are not able to get the child back to school, understand that your school district is obligated under IDEA to provide your child with an education. If your child is unable to access education at his school because of the school refusal and he has an emotional disorder (or any of the 14 characteristics) your school is required by law to find a school where he can be educated and pay for his education.

If your school’s interventions are not able to get the child back to school, understand that your school district is obligated under IDEA to provide your child with an education. If your child is unable to access education at his school because of the school refusal and he has an emotional disorder (or any of the 14 characteristics) your school is required by law to find a school where he can be educated and pay for his education.

Click here if you want to read the exact statutes on IDEA as provided by the U.S. Department of Education:
https://sites.ed.gov/idea/statuteregulations/            

If your child does not qualify for services under IDEA, they may qualify for modifications under Section 504 of the American Disabilities Act of 1973.

504s

 According to the Office of Civil Rights:

To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:

  1. have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or

  2. have a record of such an impairment; or

  3.  be regarded as having such an impairment.

 Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have,

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities

 The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry.

 The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i)  (defines a physical or mental impairment as: any physiological disorder or condition or any mental or psychological disorder, such as, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), includes functions such as:

  • caring for one's self,

  • performing manual tasks

  • walking,

  • seeing,

  • hearing,

  • speaking

  • breathing,

  • learning,

  • and working.

  • eating,

  • sleeping,

  • standing,

  • lifting,

  • bending,

  • reading,

  • concentrating,

  • thinking, and

  • communicating. 

 The Section 504 regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, so an activity or function not specifically listed above can nonetheless be a major life activity.

The determination of substantial limitation (of a major life activity) must be made on a case-by-case basis with respect to each individual student. The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.35 (c) requires that a group of knowledgeable persons draw upon information from a variety of sources in making this determination.

If it is determined by the school district's evaluation team (child study team) that the child is eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), that trumps a Section 504 plan.

A school district has no flexibility to opt to provide services and accommodations under Section 504 when the student is IDEA eligible.

School districts are required to establish and implement procedural safeguards that include notice, an opportunity for parents to review relevant records, an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation by the student's parents or guardian, representation by counsel and a review procedure.

Section 504 requires districts to provide notice to parents explaining any evaluation and placement decisions affecting their children and explaining the parents' right to review educational records and appeal any decision regarding evaluation and placement through an impartial hearing.

Unlike an IEP, a 504 will not include academic goals, benchmarks, or measurements.

There are no restrictions regarding what supports and services might be appropriate on an IEP or a 504 plan. If the school say’s that a particular service is not allowed on a 504, that would be incorrect.

All supports, services, modifications are based on the individuals needs whether on an IEP or 504.

The ultimate goal of getting an IEP or a 504 plan for your child is to provide possible services, accommodations and modifications that would help get your child back into school. And then to stay in school.

 

Possible Services, Accommodations and Modifications for kids dealing with school refusal:

  • Part-time schooling

  • temporarily allow a flexible school day

  • In-home instruction

  • Modified assignments

  • Testing in private, quiet place to reduce anxiety

  • Identify safe adult at school (problem-solving or anxiety management strategies)

  • Preferential seating (near the door, near the front of the room, near the teacher’s desk)

  • Frequent check-ins for understanding

  • Not requiring to read aloud or work at the board in front of the class

  • Video- taped presentations or presenting in front of the teacher (instead of the whole class)

  • Extended time for tests ( can include state assessments and college tests (ACT/SAT)

  • Tests taken in a separate, quiet environment (to reduce performance pressure and distraction)

  • Word banks and equation sheets: These are useful for children with test anxiety, who tend to “go blank” when taking a test. Using one notecard for important facts, dates, etc. can also be helpful.

  • “Cool down passes” to take a break from the classroom.  Examples might include a walk down the hallway, getting water, standing outside the classroom door for a few minutes, using a mindfulness app with headphones.

  • Breaking down assignments into smaller pieces

  • Modified tests and homework

  • Set reasonable time limits for homework

  • Record class lectures or use a scribe for notes

  • Preferential group (teacher or adult child knows well) for field trips

  • Preferential seating in large assemblies (near the back of the room)

  • Identify one adult at school to seek help from when feeling anxious (school counselor, if available)

  • Buddy system: Pair student with a peer to assist with transitions to lunch and recess (these less structured situations can trigger anxious feelings)

  • Help after illness: Missed work can spike anxious feelings. Providing class notes and exempting students from missed homework can help.

  • Student and parent counseling

In addition of most import, allow the student to attend school only in the counseling office or other school room if necessary.

The goal at this time is not a return to the classroom, but to prevent the student from becoming more comfortable staying home, and to maintain some semblance of a regular schedule.

The requirement to show up daily, even for a short time, can help maintain this expectation. Expect to set small goals in the beginning.  Returning to campus is difficult.

With the student, identify obstacles to those goals, and negotiate solutions.

The first goal may be simply to get the student to come onto the school campus and stay for 15 minutes.

Or

Placement at a therapeutic based school or another private school.

This placement can be a residential boarding school or day school. This determination will be between the parents, the families psychologist/psychiatrist and the child study team.

If the placement is at a day school, then you may be provided with transportation as well.


The list above is a compilation from:

If you want to read the exact law as presented from the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education, click here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html#protected