It is the beginning of the school year and schools are starting to review and reassess children’s IEPs (Individualized Educational Plan) or 504 plans. I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing at their child’s school. Many of these parents are panicked and overwhelmed. They know their child needs help at school but they do not want to ruin their child’s future.

The issue that parents are feeling confused about is should their child have an IEP or a 504 plan. An IEP is for children who are having difficulty learning subjects in the classroom. Not because they have low intelligence, because they have a different learning style. I have seen numerous parents and received numerous emails from parents stating their child’s school has told them an IEP would mark their child for life as unintelligent and possibly bankrupt the school district. None of these remarks are true.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting into a college or getting a job. Not having a decent education can stop your child from getting into college or getting a job. Therefore, if your child needs an IEP and not a 504 Plan in order to benefit from their education, not having an IEP could stop your child from getting into college or a job because they failed to receive a proper education.

Also think about when you applied for college or a job, did they ever ask for your middle school or elementary school records? The answer is no. Therefore, there is no way for a college or job to know if they ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college. Once again, colleges and jobs never ask an applicant if they ever had an IEP. Actually, an IEP can help students receive additional time taking the SAT and ACT and assist in college if they need it. So actually, it can help a child applying to college.

As for the idea that an IEP will bankrupt the school district, this is absurd. The school districts have plenty of money to provide children who need an IEP with an IEP. A 504 plan costs the district nothing and if the district fails to comply with the 504 plan, you really have no legal recourse. The IEP process is the same across the Country and if the school doesn’t comply with the IEP, you have a number of options.

Parents please do not pay to have your child psychologically tested or undergo any educational testing by a private mental health clinician. Legally, the school does not have to accept these tests results. The school has the right to do all testing first. If you disagree with the tests results you can contest the results and request that your child be re-evaluated by an independent clinician. If you request an independent evaluation, you can select who does the testing and the school district must pay for the independent evaluation not you.

The only testing schools currently are not doing are assessments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Too many children were being diagnosed with ADHD and now these assessments need to be done by a mental health clinician in private practice. These evaluations you do have to pay for.

Another issue I am receiving a large number of emails about is that the school is not doing anything. Parents are saying they are hearing from the school that their child is distracted in the classroom and not doing well on tests or homework. However, the school is not doing anything. If you feel your child needs to be assessed, you need to submit a written letter requesting the evaluations to the principal. Requesting it verbally does nothing. Legally you must submit a written letter to start the time clock starting for the evaluations.

Parents before you panic or sign anything with the school district stop and think. Look at the proposed plan and decide do you think this is really what your child needs or is the school bullying you into signing their proposed plan. If you have doubts, don’t sign and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge. The school district cannot do anything until you sign the agreement. I have seen many parents made to feel guilty if they do not sign the school’s plan. You are not a bad parent, you are a cautious parent. I have seen many schools doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child.

For more information about IEPs and 504 plans visit the website www.lucascenter.org.

Dr. Michael Rubino has worked with children and families for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com.

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