Fostering Inclusion for your kids: Understanding 504 and IEP plans
Fostering Inclusion for your kids: Understanding 504 and IEP plans
Are you a parent of a child with learning differences and disabilities? Do you struggle with navigating the education system to access resources and support? Join mental health experts Randi Owsley, LMSW, and Jessica Bullwinkle, LMFT, as they explore the differences between 504 and IEP plans, inclusive education strategies, and the benefits of accessible accommodations for students. Discover practical tips on everything from creating effective IEP plans, advocating for your child's rights, to supporting their mental health and well-being while navigating the system. This episode is a must-listen for parents seeking to empower themselves with knowledge and access mental health resources for their family.
If you're a parent seeking to promote inclusivity in your child's education, discover the benefits of 504 and IEP plans for enhancing their learning experience. Learn how to create a supportive learning environment by utilizing individualized education programs and accommodations. Find strategies for promoting inclusivity in education using 504 and IEP plans, and explore the available resources for children with 504 or IEP plans. Additionally, learn coping skills and tools that you can use to manage the unique challenges and obstacles that come with supporting a child with 504 or IEP in the education system.
Stay tuned for our upcoming podcasts where we dive deep into important topics surrounding 504 and IEP plans, essential for parents and caregivers of children with learning differences and disabilities. We will explore the differences between 504 and IEP plans, discuss accommodations for students with disabilities, and share strategies for inclusive education. Learn how to navigate the system and request a 504 or IEP plan for your child, as well as how to implement these plans at home effectively. We will also explore the benefits of a 504 plan for students with learning differences and provide insights on creating an effective IEP plan. Join us as we discuss inclusive education policy, supporting students' mental health within 504 and IEP plans, and share available resources for parents. Stay informed about special education law, the importance of including students in the plan creation process, and collaborating with teachers and school staff. Additionally, we'll explore how technology can be implemented in 504 and IEP plans, assess the success of these plans, and discuss the referral processes for IEP and 504 plans. Discover how to advocate for your child's rights in school with the help of a 504 or IEP plan, and learn about accessibility accommodations for students with disabilities. Don't miss out on these upcoming episodes packed with valuable information and insights.
Frequently Asked Questions about Nurturing Growth and Fostering Inclusion: Understanding 504 Plans vs IEPs
Q: What is the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP?
A: A 504 plan provides accommodations and support for students with disabilities that affect their learning, while an Individualized Education Program (IEP) goes a step further by providing specialized instruction and services tailored to the student's unique needs.
Q: How do I know if my child needs a 504 plan or an IEP?
A: If your child has a disability that substantially limits their learning, they may benefit from a 504 plan or an IEP. Talk to your child's school to discuss your concerns and request an evaluation to determine the most appropriate support.
Q: How can I request a 504 or IEP plan for my child?
A: Start by contacting your child's school and expressing your concerns. They will guide you through the evaluation process, which involves gathering information from various sources, assessing your child's needs, and determining if a 504 plan or IEP is necessary.
Q: Can I request accommodations for my child at home with a 504 plan or IEP?
A: Yes, you can work with your child's school to ensure that the accommodations provided in their plan are also implemented at home. This can help create consistency and support your child's learning and development outside of school.
Q: What are the benefits of a 504 plan for students with learning differences?
A: A 504 plan ensures that students with learning differences have access to accommodations and support that help level the playing field. These plans promote equal opportunities for learning, provide necessary accommodations, and foster a more inclusive educational environment.
Q: How can I create an effective IEP plan for my child?
A: Creating an effective IEP plan involves collaboration between you, your child's school and teachers, and other professionals. It should be tailored to meet your child's specific needs and goals, outlining appropriate services, accommodations, and strategies to support their learning and development.
Q: What resources are available for parents navigating 504 and IEP plans?
A: There are numerous resources available to support parents navigating 504 and IEP plans. These include support groups, online forums, guidebooks, educational websites, and workshops. Your child's school or local special education department can also provide valuable information and guidance.
Q: What is special education law and how does it relate to 504 and IEP plans?
A: Special education law outlines the rights of students with disabilities and ensures they receive appropriate educational services. It governs the implementation of 504 and IEP plans, protecting the rights of students and their families, and ensuring they receive the support they need to thrive in an educational setting.
Q: How can I advocate for my child's rights in school with the help of a 504 or IEP plan?
A: Advocating for your child's rights involves actively participating in the development and implementation of their 504 or IEP plan. Stay informed, communicate openly with the school, attend meetings, ask questions, provide input, and collaborate with the school to ensure your child's needs are being met.
Q: What are accessibility accommodations for students with disabilities?
A: Accessibility accommodations refer to modifications and supports that ensure students with disabilities can access educational materials, participate fully in classroom activities, and have an equitable learning experience. These accommodations may include assistive technology, modified assignments, extra time for exams, preferential seating, and more.
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Fostering Inclusion for your kids: Understanding 504 and IEP plans
[00:00:00] Randi: welcome to the Women's Mental Health Podcast with Randi and Jess. We're two licensed psychotherapists and we talk about women's mental health, well being and strategies for coping with life's challenges and how it's all normal.
[00:00:12] Jess: Inclusive education is so important to create a nurturing and supportive learning environment for all students, regardless of their abilities.
[00:00:20] Randi: In this episode, we're exploring how 504 plans and IEPs can be powerful tools to ensure your child receives the individualized support they need to thrive academically and socially. We'll discuss what these plans are, how to obtain them, and their impact on promoting inclusivity in education and mental health. So
[00:00:41] Jess: let's say that again. Support your child both academically and socially.
[00:00:47] Randi: You can find us and more resources on womensmentalhealthpodcast.
[00:00:52] Jess: All right. Have you ever thought,
[00:00:54] Randi: what is an I E P? What is it? I don't know what it is. What does it stand for?
[00:00:59] Jess: What is a 5 0 4? What does it have to do with education and
[00:01:03] Randi: what is the difference between the two? What is the difference between a 5 0 4 and i e p? Are they the same? Are they different?
I had no clue before .
[00:01:10] Jess: How does my child qualify for an I E P or a 5 0 4? And
[00:01:15] Randi: what steps do I take to help my child obtain these? Also,
[00:01:19] Jess: why is it so difficult to get these for my child as
[00:01:23] Randi: well? And it is. It can be a big headache depending on the town you live in, the state you live in, the education system you're in, and some people can be super helpful and other people can give you wrong information 504 and IEP plans.
There can be lots of roadblocks. So that's why we want to talk about it because it is important to empower yourself and support each other through this.
[00:01:43] Jess: Exactly. And we're talking about it now in the beginning of the school, ? Because , my 13 year old came to me and said, mom, I want you guys to talk about 504s and IEPs , because of what we've gone through, I call them a shit show,
because of what we've gone through to get her, her 504, , and she wants us to make sure that we're able to help other people because she has felt so supported by me and what I know and learn in these things.
[00:02:06] Randi: So many other parents I've talked to have been through this, have been through those shitshows with this, and because there is such a steep learning curve with it, and you don't really know, and you're fumbling your way through it at first, and until you kind of have a few years under your belt, it's really hard to navigate
[00:02:24] Jess: it.
I remember sitting in my first IEP meeting as an intern thinking, I have no idea what these people are saying, and I'm supposed to be supporting this parent, and this parent has no idea what they're saying, and they were completely talking over our heads and throwing out acronyms, and that's how a lot of parents feel. They have no idea what's going on 504 and IEP plans.. Before we go into this episode let's make sure that we're all on the same page,
[00:02:48] Randi: Randi. Okay. So individualized education programs are commonly known as IEPs. And 504 plans are designed to assist students with disabilities or special needs in a mainstream educational environment.
So these plans help level the playing field and provide personalized accommodations and services to ensure that your child has academic success and overall well being that can include reading, speaking, and writing. speech occupational therapy, social skills more time for taking tests. It can apply to so many different things, but there's bathroom pass, right?
But there's so many things like my daughter has migraines. So she has like a pass for her migraines. It can encompass so many things. That's why it can be so hard to navigate because I think a lot of people, even the people that are running the programs, don't even know all the rules and regulations about it.
[00:03:42] Jess: so let's start off first , understanding the 504 plans, ? Like you said it's there to design to level the playing field. And what that means is it's to make it so it's even. And I hate to say this, ? We play golf. We all know that like they do a number, they call it a handicap, which I don't like necessarily.
Right. But what it does is it makes it so your child who might need accommodations or special help. It can also be the same as somebody next to them who is not say, a neurodivergent who sits next to a divergent or somebody who has a physical disability sitting next to somebody who doesn't or something with their hearing or even behavioral
[00:04:22] Randi: issues.
Right. So like my son has ADHD, so that makes him 30% on average they would say behind the normal curve. So allowing him extra things to take his test, to focus a little bit more, to , get up and move more, help him level that learning playing field for
[00:04:40] Jess: him. The 504 plan is less formal of an arrangement.
It ensures that a child with a disability and I know we don't like saying that word sometimes But it's a child who has a disability. They have a right an equal right to their education it's based upon section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act,
[00:05:01] Randi: When we say disability too, this can include things like mental health, anxiety, migraines, physical limitations.
We're not just talking about something just physical. Reading issues. Right. It can be math issues. It can encompass so many things. It's a huge umbrella.
[00:05:22] Jess: A 504 is not a specialized education program like an IEP, ? Instead, it's a set of accommodations and modifications that are tailored to meet your child or a specific child's needs.
And again, like Randy has said, this includes extended time on tests. It could be my child has to sit in the front. Otherwise, she's going to talk to everybody in the back. She's got to be right by that teacher. It could be assistive technology. Or other reasonable accommodations that your child might need to make it easier so that way. They aren't trying to play catch up all the time with the other kids.
[00:05:57] Randi: Mm hmm. And this is for any student that has any type of disability and for any school that receives federal funding.
So we're talking about public schools for the most part or charter schools if they receive any type of federal funding. You can ask for a 504 plan if your child has a disability, Getting a 504 plan is about addressing the challenges that might otherwise hinder their progress. So They can succeed in that type of learning environment because they do learn differently 504 and IEP plans..
Everybody learns differently.
[00:06:35] Jess: Exactly. now let's go through what an individualized education plan is or an IEP. An IEP is a plan that's designed for students who require special instruction to meet their unique needs. And I know it sounds very much similar, But what this is, is it's a formal document that outlines their current performance.
It has very measurable goals, and that means that by the end of the year they really have to meet to say, did they meet these goals and what percentage did they meet them?
[00:07:07] Randi: It can say like, right now there are a 50% grade level for their reading. They need to be at a 55% or a 75% by the end of this year when we meet again to go over this IEP.
It needs to be measurable in black and white that they are achieving these things.
[00:07:26] Jess: And it's there to determine like what their specialized services or accommodations are. And what this does is it caters to the 13 specific disability categories defined again under the Individuals with Disability Education Act, which is the IDEA.
I know I'm throwing all these acronyms, sorry guys, but what this includes is disabilities such as specific learning disabilities, speech, language impairments, autism, emotional disturbances and more. So before we go through the difference of them, let's talk about how to get them.
[00:07:59] Randi: Okay, how do we obtain a 504 plan or an IEP plan?
Many parents often wonder how they can initiate this process, and we're going to shed some light on that. To get started, it's crucial for parents and teachers to be proactive in recognizing the signs of any potential disability that might be impairing the child's educational progress.
[00:08:22] Jess: And so if you suspect that your child has a disability or that they're struggling with something, really, the first step is to reach out and communicate with the school and request an evaluation for their 504 and IEP plans.
Really, they'll say you should talk to the teacher, talk to the teacher, but really, truly, Reach out and request it and I want to tell you to put it in writing
[00:08:44] Randi: send an email black and
[00:08:45] Jess: white Black and white or write a letter have it dated have it stamped in the office and get a copy That's what I prefer old school because that way you know, they got it.
You walked it to him It didn't go to some spam box. It didn't do any of that, in most states They have a number of days in which they have to address it, right?
[00:09:05] Randi: It's about
[00:09:06] Jess: 30 days 30 to 40 five, depending on the state.
[00:09:09] Randi: And then the school is on the hook basically to be held accountable and conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the eligibility for your child for either a five, a four plan or IEP plan, depending on your child's needs.
[00:09:25] Jess: , I'm going to tell a story here eventually, but I want all parents out there, if the school come back, comes back and says no, and you're like, no, no, no, something is wrong. Something is wrong. Just because the school says no, doesn't mean that's the final answer. You have every right to go to an outside source to get a report or to get an evaluation.
Yes. You can
[00:09:46] Randi: have your own test. And evaluations done and take them back to the school and say, my child does have these diagnosis, now let's move forward and see what you can do to help them and get them the accommodations that they
[00:10:00] Jess: need. exactly. I also recommend that on top of the school, you also have an outside one because sometimes they'll see different things.
And really, I'm going to tell you, the school isn't always there to support you and your child as much as you think they are.
[00:10:15] Randi: No. Let's be honest, everybody's a number and eventually a paycheck. to somebody in the school system, and a lot of the time we are treated that way as parents, and our kids are treated that way.
Sometimes you'll meet some amazing people on this journey that will help you and give you faith, and a lot of times your faith is going to be shaken in the school system going through this. Oh
[00:10:37] Jess: yeah, I can tell you I recall exactly where I was in Target. When I was talking to the school psychologist who failed my daughter when I told him that he was a waste of space and that he probably should reevaluate why he's doing what he's doing right.
He no longer attended any of our meetings from that point forward. They probably figured it was better off to not have him in there with
[00:10:58] Randi: us. Yeah. But they are a lot of people with preconceived notions or think their way is right over other ways. 504 and IEP plans.Mm-hmm. , but what. What is so important about having a 504 or an IEP plan is that it is a legally binding document that the school has to hold up on their end and show these things are happening and the progress so that you are not taken advantage of and your child does not slip through the cracks.
But even with this in place, it can still be an uphill battle to make sure they are up. Upholding it. And I have learned that with my daughter has a 504 and she's in high school and it's Like fingernails on a chalkboard trying to get them to actually uphold it even with all sorts of documentation and stuff And my son has an IEP.
So I am speaking from a lot of knowledge
[00:11:48] Jess: here And one of the reasons I have a lot of parents saying why should I do this? Why should I get this there? What it does is it really promotes inclusivity for your child, cause there's so many children who have different learning needs and that we really want them to feel the same as the people next to them.
We don't want them to feel like they're standing out. And really we want our educators. To really work on that piece. We want them to provide those necessary accommodations and support to help 'em participate in their classroom among their peers.
[00:12:21] Randi: And we get it. Our teachers are so overworked and underpaid and it's just hard.
There's so too many kids in the public school system and there's a lot of things to battle here, but. It's important to make your child seen and to have your voice heard. And this is another way to empower yourself as a parent and help your child empower themselves so that their needs are met 504 and IEP plans..
[00:12:45] Jess: my daughter has a 504 and I'll talk about our first experience as a therapist in the same town
I was like, I think there's some reading issues. I think there might be some ADHD. This is kinder. And he's like, no, she's fine. I was like, I don't think she's fine. No, no, no. She's fine. We went out. I got testing through a colleague. Turns out no, there's some ADHD and there's a reading issue. a vision issue.
Yeah. And so we're sitting in this 5 0 4 meeting with my husband and he'll tell the story different, but it was like my proudest moment of him. I swear, yeah. We're sitting there and there was me and him, her teacher a school psychologist, the principal, some other people there, and this big round table.
And we're listening to her teacher talk. This school psychologist starts , , side talking. And he wasn't even listening to what the teacher was saying. He was just doing his own thing, talking about
[00:13:36] Randi: something else. 504 and IEP plans. He had already made a decision. Yes.
He didn't care for anybody else's opinion.
[00:13:41] Jess: Exactly. And so at that point, I was getting ready to get up, ? Like I was getting antsy. My hands are like clenching. I'm getting the whole, I'm going to jump up, jump up. My husband reaches over, puts his hand on my knee and says, excuse me. And gets everybody's attention.
He says, is what you're saying more important than what my daughter's teacher is saying right now? And he was like well, well, no I mean, I, he goes, and my husband says, cause I can't hear her if you're talking. And then the entire room just went, I was like,
[00:14:12] Randi: Oh, somebody just called him out on his bullshit.
[00:14:14] Jess: Oh, it was so much better than what I was going to do. So much better than I would have just been literally having a tantrum. And even the teacher the next day was like, Your husband is amazing. I'm so like, thank you. She did. She says, thank you. That happens all the time. So annoying. I, and then I went out and got her tested, found out, yes, she has ADHD.
Yes. She had a severe stigmatism that she couldn't even see the letters. And if I had listened to him, he did his testing. He said, no, she's fine. We would have been. Finding out in fourth or fifth grade that she was so far behind her classmates, but because I'm a therapist, I was like, no, there's something else.
So really don't, yes, they're educated. Yes, this is their job. But if you doubt it, push it forward. Get a second opinion.
[00:15:01] Randi: That mama intuition. Yes. There's something else. If you feel there's something wrong. Exhaust those resources until you have the answers that you need. Not that you need to like keep digging and digging and digging because you want a certain answer.
But if it's apparent, it's going to be apparent. Like I went in and had my son tested thinking that he had one thing and finding out he had multiple things that I had not even recognized because it was mild in him.
[00:15:29] Jess: It's also because he's your son and you, you accommodate for
[00:15:32] Randi: him here. Exactly.
Exactly. And I was, I'm used to his. Personality , and I am also probably undiagnosed autism and for me, I thought it was normal you know, like, so it didn't seem offbeat to me. But the importance of doing this and supporting your child through this is that.
When you communicate openly and frequently with your child's teachers and their staff and their therapists, whoever is involved, it just ensures that they are going to get these accommodations that they need. 504 and IEP plans. If you are Bringing this up in the narrative again and again, and you let them know it's important, hopefully you will be heard through that communication.
[00:16:14] Jess: I was always the parent, and I learned this from a friend of mine she says, I always thought I was going to be that parent that was like, Yeah, I'm totally cool. I'm chill. This is my kid. Hey, first day of school. How'd it go? She says, Nope, I'm the one that sends an email.
Dear so and so, this is what their IEP says. This is what they need. Let me know. We're happy to do whatever. We're happy to bring whatever. Let me know. And guess what? I do it every year.. This is what we do. And so now that she's older, she actually will advocate for herself.
We've had teachers say she can't do that. She's like, nope, that's on my 504. Amazing. Yeah, and she will. And they're like, wait, what? She's nope, that's part of my 504. Do you need to talk to my mom? Yeah, I have no problem telling him. She's like, mom, they're not listening to me.
And I'll be like, I hear that you're not following her 504. This is a legal document. Please let me know where the miscommunication is. Yes. And unfortunately, that is the parent I am. And she has picked up to be able to actually not even unfortunately, no. Yeah. Fortunately, why am I apologizing?
Yeah. But she's able to say, that's part of my 504. We have to do it this way. And again, I'm like, I always have your back. Be respectful. I always have your back. Just don't be disrespectful
[00:17:24] Randi: about it. Exactly. And since we just got my daughters for her migraines this last year, that was something that she had to learn.
And so we sat down and went over what legally are they required to do or not do so that she could advocate for herself when they were like questioning , why is this happening? Why is this happening? It's all like when you go in the meeting people can be very like yes to your face and oh, yeah We're gonna help you but then when it comes down to it if there's no follow through They don't always like, you questioning them , not upholding this document, but I wanted her to also be able to say yes this is what we talked about.
This is what we signed. This is what we did. This is what is legal,
[00:18:07] Jess: And it's not like we're making crazy accommodations, ? What this is, these are things that are, these are things,
[00:18:12] Randi: basic things Our kids don't even have some of the major things. No. A lot of special needs parents have to battle.
Yes. So I can't even imagine my mom heart is like feeling Oh my God, for what some of these people have to battle with. for their kids, for inclusivity, for mainstream learning, for just basic human fucking rights that they should have. And I have
[00:18:38] Jess: heard horror stories in both states that I've been in that they don't always follow them and I get it 504 and IEP plans.
It's hard to know what everybody's , 504 is and I'm sure they get a whole stack of it. And
[00:18:49] Randi: oh, yeah, like I've been in meetings where this last year we had a new speech therapist come on board and she was like, oh, I didn't even know he had this diagnosis and I was like might have been helpful to read the paperwork, There's just so much and they're so overwhelmed. And so I have a very empathetic heart for that but at
[00:19:06] Jess: the same time, it's my kid and I have gone to exactly. And the reason my daughter wanted us to bring this up is because even I think it was last year, we're sitting in her meeting and it was all via zoom because I was working and I didn't have time to go down there. 504 and IEP plans.
So it's all via zoom. And the assistant principal was , Kind of pushing her to do something that she didn't understand and I could see it. And she told me later that she was ready just to say, okay, because she was getting flustered and feeling dumb, like she should know what they're talking about.
And I was the one that finally said, okay, hang on, , let's stop for a second. And I said, Hey. And I was like, hang on, we're having a side conversation. I need to know, do you know what they're talking about? And I took it on and I said, I don't know what they're talking about. Can you explain to me what she wants?
And she said, no. And I said, okay, let's back up and let's talk about what it is you're saying, because we don't know what you're talking about and I'll take it. I will always be like, throw mom under the bus. It's fine. Yeah. But don't railroad her into doing something that she doesn't know. 504 and IEP plans.And they were trying to get us to undo something.
And I said, okay, cool. I said, so all the kids in the school are doing this, what you want us to do? She said, yeah. And I said, okay, so how is that an accommodation for my child? And they were like it's not. I said, then I'm not changing it. Yeah. Oh, and the really cool thing, by the way, squirrel here. You guys can keep their 504 and IEPs all the way through college.
What this does is kids who are anxious, they typically will get to pick their classes first. And some of the colleges have changed it to the accommodation center versus. When I went to college, it was a disability
[00:20:43] Randi: center. So my daughter has that too because she also has anxiety and ADHD and she is able to get classes with teachers that she knows can support her Or with friends that she knows can support her if she is having an anxiety attack or if she's having a migraine coming on Or if all these things she knows that she will be supported in that environment So we can help make her schedule.
And also important thing is through this, getting this done in as early as you can, or through in high school, at least until college, they can get help with testing for the SAT or the ACT and you can let them know I have a 504, I have an IEP. I need additional time. I need a special proctor.
I need whatever. may be so that they can perform the best at their ability and succeed within that because standardized testing is not made
[00:21:35] Jess: for everybody. It's not. And you can even get accommodations like extra time on the LSTAT, the GRE, is it, is it the GRE? 504 and IEP plans. No. What is the one? G E R?
G E R. Apparently, we didn't take that one.
[00:21:47] Randi: No, we did not take that one. I mean, There's so many, like you said, there's so many acronyms. I don't know. But there's lots of things that you can apply for and be given those accommodations so that you have a higher success rate of achieving that when it does take you a little bit more time to do things.
[00:22:06] Jess: and it's not really, the reason we want the accommodations isn't so they can get better grades. It's because it might take a child a half hour to do something and it might take another child an hour and a half. And really what's going to happen is that. after a half hour, that other child may not finish.
And so we want them to be successful in the way that they're going to learn. And that's going to work for them.
[00:22:30] Randi: And so as we wrap up today's episode, we just want you guys to remember that 504 plans and IEPs are powerful tools that can make a significant difference in your child's educational journey. 504 and IEP plans.
You don't have to look. Add it as something that's negative or labeling them. Nobody needs to know that they have it. They're not going to go
[00:22:50] Jess: on , a special class anymore. We don't, they're not, we're not sending them off
[00:22:54] Randi: anywhere. And so it's about embracing these opportunities to help your child succeed and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
for your child as they grow.
[00:23:07] Jess: It is, and it does not cost you anything to do this. No. This is not something that you have to have money to do. This is something that every child in public school has a right to if they have a disability. Yes, it's federally funded. Absolutely. Guys, if you have any questions or you want to share your experiences, we would love to hear them.
You can reach out to us on our social media channels, on Instagram, on our website or Facebook. Website is womensmentalhealthpodcast.
[00:23:37] Randi: com. And always remember every child deserves to have an education that caters to their unique needs and abilities.
[00:23:46] Jess: Absolutely. Till next time.