Dr. Stein's Psychology Blog
My thoughts on mental health counseling, therapy, neuropsychology, collaborative divorce and more.
Do you dread the Back-to-School season just as much as your child? Are you too familiar with homework conflict, negative phone calls from teachers, and school refusal from your kid? Often, when these situations occur, parents don’t realize that their child is not just being stubborn, lazy, or negative. Instead, the child may be battling an undiagnosed learning issue. And, if one is discovered through a psychoeducational evaluation, a series of interventions and accommodations for the child are often available, providing some relief for not only the student, but also the whole family indirectly.
Last week I wrote a blog called Five Reasons Why A School District’s Evaluation of Your Child May Be Insufficient . In the following piece I will explain why one may need a psychoeducational evaluation in the first place. There are a wide range of common cognitive, learning, and psychological issues that impact learning:
What Types of Learning Issues Are There?
What can be done in school if my child is diagnosed with a learning and/or attention issue?
If an expert diagnoses a student with a learning disability, then he or she is entitled by federal law to receive extra assistance, typically through a 504 plan or IEP.
What is a 504 plan?
A 504 is a nickname for Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This civil rights law prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. Any child with a disability, including one that impacts learning or attention issues, is eligible for a 504 if the disability interferes with the child’s ability to learn in a general education setting. Section 504 has a broad definition of a disability, which is why many children in general education classrooms qualify for a 504.
What is an IEP?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a federal special education law for children with disabilities. To get an IEP, there are two requirements. First, a child must have one or more of the 13 specific disabilities listed in IDEA. Leaning and attention issues may qualify. Next, the disability must impact the child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum.
How Can My Child Get a 504 or IEP?
To get a 504, parents are not allowed to ask for an independent educational evaluation, but they can always pay for an outside evaluation themselves.
To get an IEP, parents can request the school district pay for an independent educational evaluation by an outside expert. But, the school district does not have to agree. Parents can always pay for an outside evaluation on their own.
What is actually in a 504 or IEP?
A 504 plan generally includes specific accommodations (changes to the learning environment), supports, or services for the student as well as who will provide each service and be responsible for ensuring the plan happens. A 504 plan can include instruction tailored to your child’s needs within a general education classroom.
For instance, within a 504 plan, a child with anxiety can leave the room to practice breathing exercises, a boy with an attention deficit disorder can pace while learning vocabulary words, and a girl with a central auditory processing disorder can receive information orally and in writing.
An IEP sets learning goals for a student and lists the services a school with provide such as special education, related, supplementary, and extended school year services. It must include how the child is currently performing in school, goals for the school year, and an explanation of how progress will be tracked. It also details when the services will begin, how often they will happen, and how long they will last. An IEP may offer accommodations (changes to the learning environment) and/or modifications (changes to what they child is expected to learn or know.) An IEP will explain how a child will participate in standardized tests and how the child will be included in general education and school activities. Other ways that educators can meet some learners’ needs via an IEP are by providing extra time on tests, providing class notes from a peer or teacher, seating the student in the first row, and modifying tests.
Who creates the specialized plan?
A 504 gets completed by a group of people who are familiar with the student and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This can include: the student’s parent, teacher, principal, and/or psychologist.
An IEP must be created by a team that includes a child’s parent, at least one of the child’s teachers, at least one special education teacher, a psychologist who can interpret results of a psychoeducational evaluation, and a district representative who has authority over special education services. Typically, the entire IEP team must be present for IEP meetings.
If you think that your child may have a learning issue that requires closer attention, please call me at my Red Bank office at 732-747-8818 for a free 15-minute consultation. We can discuss whether or not an independent psychoeducational evaluation is in your student’s best interest.
I'm a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist with a private practice in Red Bank, NJ.