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Are You a Parent New to 504s and IEPs? Here Are Six Things I Wish I Knew Years Ago

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Six years! That is the length of time I’ve been collaborating with my school’s special education team. For all the other back-to-school moms out there, here are my “TOP Six things I wish someone told me six years ago.”

I have two children – one has an #IEP, the other has a 504. My two children have unique challenges including severe anxiety, depression, #ADHD, #ASD and even #Lyme disease and other infections. They have accommodations for their #neurodiversity, as well as their medical conditions, so our situation is complex. Yet, no matter the situation, this fact remains. No one will ever care more about your child’s education than you – the parent. So here are six practical tips from the trenches. Forward on to a mom who is beginning her journey or to someone who needs help in this special arena.

  1. Get Data.

This club is data driven. To secure the appropriate tools and accommodations for your child you NEED data. Think assessments, evaluations, neuropsychological reporting. These may be conducted by schools or through outside practices. I prefer independent evaluations because I feel they are extremely thorough and some even go beyond learning differences. I’ve worked with some practitioners who dive into emotional and mental health disorders, which is extremely helpful if these challenges are affecting your child’s ability to learn.

2. Update your data.

Kids change quickly. The goal is for students to no longer need their accommodations after some time. But in some cases, the gap gets WIDER over time and the plan needs to expand. Some students need more services as they get older. I find my children outgrow their evaluations after two years. It’s important to understand that assessments and evaluations are an on-going process to support your child's academic needs. For many, it’s not a "one and done” process.

3. Check insurance.

Over the last six years, together my children have gone through evaluations a total of five times. The last three were quite extensive. Guess what? These last three comprehensive reports were also completely covered by my insurance. YES! And, these evaluations checked for mental health disorders, in addition to ADHD and ASD. My point? Check your mental health coverage. It matters!

4. Get educated!

Your child is not the only person who is on an “education” journey. Start learning mama! I am a huge fan of email newsletters from #ADHD organizations, Facebook groups, niche podcasts and webinars. Taking in bits of information here and there is helpful. Learn the difference between a 504 and #IEP. Know your child’s rights. Learn the specifics of your district. And, connect with your community. The experience of other moms within your school district is priceless.

5. Consider an advocate.

If your child is not successfully supported time and again and continues to miss goals, then it’s probably time to explore expanding your team. Moreover, when the education plans are not working, frustration and emotions build. When you bring on an outside team member who works on behalf of your child, the process becomes more streamlined. It’s also beneficial for someone to advocate on your child’s behalf without the emotional pain points. I recommend getting referrals from your own network. Check with your therapist, your psychiatrist, and also other MOMS! Be sure to work with someone who has successfully worked with families in your district.

6. Get comfortable with change and discomfort.

Recognize that there may never be a perfect plan, or perfect teacher, or perfect school. Moreover, these plans are meant to be modified time and again as your child’s needs change. Also, education plans are not “one size fits all” so be sure to go above and beyond simple boiler plate accommodations. Get creative and tune-in to your child’s learning needs. At the end of the day, remember that the special education plan is created to support your child. It is not created to eliminate discomfort. Read that again and then start flexing your discomfort muscle. This will serve you and your child in this journey.

My best advice? Have the understanding that you are VITAL to the team. Again, no one will ever be more invested in your child’s education than you. Show up as the most empowered version of yourself. If you need help building your personal empowerment, I am here to help. You got this!

For a quick empowerment toolkit, download my free Thrive Guide.

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