4. Tap into legally mandated education plans
Kids develop differently. If yours is struggling with material that seems within reach, having a hard time concentrating or consistently not performing up to their abilities, they may have a learning issue that puts them out of sync with what’s going on in the classroom. Under federal law, your child has a right to “free and appropriate education” if they have a disability, which could be something obvious or a condition that is more difficult to pin down, such as some degree of attention deficit disorder or dyslexia. Ask your child’s teacher or principal if your child should be evaluated to determine eligibility for one of the following:
Individualized Education Plan: The IEP is a written plan crafted by a team of school staff and parents to lay out specific steps and personnel to help the student deal with specific challenges. Accommodations and modifications could include such things as extra time to complete assignments or tests, taking tests in a private space, tutoring, regular meetings with a counselor or teacher to assist in content or work strategies. The plan is reviewed annually.
504 Plan: Like the IEP, this plan is tailored to meet the student’s specific needs, and it follows the student through to high school graduation in the public school system. Unlike the IEP, the school is not required to include parents in initiating a 504 plan. In general, the parent has fewer rights with regard to the 504 than with the IEP, notes Understood.com.
Some schools are diligent about providing the specified services to meet the needs of individual students. But as this law blog on the subject explains, some schools go through the motions of IEPs and 504 plans so that they can’t be targeted by a civil rights lawsuit.
In general, you need to monitor how the school is implementing the plan in place for your kid, especially in the case of a 504 plan, notes Understood.com:
After you receive a copy of your child’s 504 plan, keep an eye on how it’s being implemented. This is especially important, because the school isn’t required to give you regular updates on your child’s progress. Don’t wait until next year’s 504 plan meeting to raise your concerns!
Remember, none of this is about whether your child is smart or not. The goal is for your child to reach their potential, whether that means conquering remedial reading or astrophysics. And getting help is the best way to get them there without sacrificing your sanity.
If you have more ideas about affordable ways to help kids power through their classes, share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.