Updated: Jul 27
All public school systems are required to provide all students with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In other words, children with dyslexia, as well as any other disability, who meet certain eligibility criteria are entitled to a free education that is appropriate for their unique needs.
The services and accommodations necessary to receive FAPE can look different for every student, as they must be based on their individual needs.
To provide FAPE, school districts have an obligation to provide qualifying students with a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). These formal plans provide students with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education as required by federal law.
504 Plans fall under the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These plans are designed to allow students with disabilities access to the grade level curriculum as well as prevent discrimination as a result of their disability. They level the playing field for students by putting accommodations and sometimes services in place to allow the child equal opportunity and access to their grade level curriculum.
IEPs fall under the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These programs or plans are designed to meet the unique needs of the child and prepare them for their future. These plans allow for remediation in areas of underachievement, specially designed instruction and/or related services, and accommodations necessary to provide the student with free and appropriate public education.
There are a few specific differences to expound upon, as they are important to the dyslexia community. IEPs allow for more services and support in order to meet your child’s unique needs. As it says in its name, IEPs are individualized. For children with dyslexia, this is a very important distinction as their reading skills are often at varying levels. They need Structured Literacy intervention that is designed to address their individualized needs as compared to their same-age and grade-level peers. While 504 Plans can include services, they often do not provide the effective remediation necessary to bridge an achievement gap.
Another critical difference is that 504 Plans do not require parental participation. Therefore parents are not always part of the decision-making process. Technically, the school can decide which accommodations are appropriate for a student without any parental input. While many districts provide parents with a written plan of some sort, regulations do not require that a written plan be created. However, if your student qualifies for an IEP, parents are ‘equal members of the team’ and included in the decision-making process. More importantly, in a few states like Virginia, parent consent is required before a school district can even implement a child’s IEP. Parent involvement is one of the benefits of your child qualifying for an IEP.
Regardless of which plan your child qualifies for, the obligation is for the public school to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education to all students with disabilities.
Finally, it is important to remember that "extra help" in the classroom is NOT the same as receiving formal special education interventions and may not be helpful enough. Learn more about "extra help" in the classroom may be wasting precious time.
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