IEPs, 504s: How do you get from your school what your child needs?

We had a request to discuss IEPs (Individualized Education Progam) and 504s and how you can get your school to support what your child needs instead of fighting you every step of the way.

Sadly, I think often schools do NOT provide the services that special needs kids require. I would hope the resistance to providing services stems from financial and staffing constraints and not negligence. But either way it’s illegal.

Often I think principals just don’t know all the ins and outs of federal and state laws that regulate the support to which these children are entitled.

This year I have met several ladies involved in advocacy for special needs kids, and I coincidentally attended last week a seminar about writing IEPs by some education advocates.

Education advocates are people that know the special education system. For a fee, they will review your case, help you figure out what testing you need and then can even come into your IEP meeting with you to fight for what your child needs. They know all the ins and outs and what the schools MUST provide and what’s illegal for them to do.

So how much would this type of help cost you?

Well the two advocates that spoke said it was about $500 to review a file and take on a case (almost like a retaining fee for a lawyer). For that fee you get all the guidance and counseling you need and follow up for it sounded like several years. They could tell you what you need to do and what you should be asking the school for.

If you wanted them to come to the meeting, it was $150 an hour plus transportation costs.

There are federal laws about how IEP’s and 504s are handled but states can also have laws that affect them so they are very complicated.

I wanted to share a few of the tips that the ladies gave in the seminar. These are from my notes. Keep in mind they might be different for your state.

1.  You can request that the school evaluate your child in all areas of suspected disability each year. You can, and they advised that you should, also request an independent evaluation, which is paid for by your school district. You are not required to say why you want this. Sadly, they believe that the schools are often biased in what they will identify as needing help based on what they want to provide. That is why you need the independent evaluation.

2. If you’ve asked the school to evaluate and they said they didn’t think there was cause that is illegal, they said. They said that is predetermination and they can’t do that.

3. If you put it in writing and say that “I am asking for an evaluation in all suspected disabilities and I give permission and consent” then they legally only have 60 days to get it done.  (I think that was the federal rule.)

4. The goals set need to be measurable and clear. They need to be goals where you can have data. There needs to be a baseline for where the child begins.

5. I believe she said they are required to send quarterly progress reports. When they send home those progress reports saying “42 percent” complete or improved, you need to ask for data to support that number. They are supposed to keep data to show that. If they are not keeping data, that is illegal.

6. In the IEP, the parent input part is where you write what you see and are concerned about. If it is written, then they have to address it.

7.Everything needs to be in writing. If it’s not in writing then it wasn’t said. They said it is good for parents to write up their own goals, the accommodations they are looking for and after a summary of the meeting to be entered into the IEP. This way your voice is recorded in the official document and can lead the way you want the school to go.

8. When you sign the IEP, always sign “Name, disagree in part”

You don’t have to say why you disagree but they say this gives you protection that you can go back later and fight things in the IEP after you see how things are working out.

9. Reasonable notice is 10 days for a meeting. They have to give you a choice in time and day.

10. You can bring anyone in you want to support you in  the meeting. But they do not recommend bringing the child. They think it’s up to the parents to hash it out and then present the finished product to the child.

11. You should request all the documents from your child’s file ahead of time and they have to provide that. You shouldn’t walk into meetings unprepared.

12. Also, when you meet to hash out the IEP don’t sign it that day. Tell them you want to get a copy of what was written (may not be that day) and thing about and you’ll meet again to sign it.

13. If there is therapy or treatment (like OT) that they don’t agree to do tell them you want that written into the IEP saying they refuse to provide it. The ladies mentioned that you might be able to get reimbursed from the government for your private OT or services if it’s written in that the school refused to provide it.

14. Watch out for cookie-cutter IEPs. The IEPs literally are written with drop-down menus and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be an individual plan!

One dad at the meeting who had four kids with special needs said he thinks parents should go into the IEP meeting open-minded, but just be educated.

There is so much inside baseball with IEPs and so many ways your child can be screwed that I think if you can afford the education advocates, they are a good idea.

Tell us what tips and tricks you have learned from dealing with IEPs and your school. Is your school looking out for your child’s best interest or trying to provide barely the minimum that they need? Tell us how you have been able to get the school to provide what they are legally required to and what your child needs?

80 comments Add your comment


June 21st, 2012
6:54 pm


I don’t think there are any legal accommodations for dyslexic students. It’s something I’ve asked about and I was told there really isn’t anything you can do for them.


June 21st, 2012
7:04 pm

I looked it up on the GADOE website, and Dyslexia is covered under LD! What exactly do they put in an IEP for a dyslexic student?


June 21st, 2012
7:50 pm

@Sam–I don’t know what would be covered under an IEP since we’ve never had one. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford private help for my son and went that route when I didn’t receive much support from the school. I’ve always thought about what a challenge it would have been if I had not been able to afford private testing and tutoring. Diagnosis and the proper reading program turned things around for my son but so many families don’t have that option.

I guess I foolishly counted on his teachers, counselors and administrators to help guide me, but all I was told at the time was that his scores were too high to receive any help–that’s why I think the information on today’s blog is so helpful-There are probably many parents who don’t understand what they need to do to get help for their kids.

FCM on my cell

June 21st, 2012
8:08 pm

I am stuck on tier 2 of RTI or something. Her psych has her as severe ADHD. Who do I go to for testingthe reading/writing issues to find out what is really wrong. She can tell yoy a great story or sing a song but cannot get it from brain to paper via writing. Heading to 4th grade & never finished a capter book. Will listen to books on tape or me or whatever and retain the whole thing with no problem.

I appteciate all the posts. My kids teachers say things like if you talj to her she is very intelligent and speaks like an adult. she just wont do it on the assignment….i have watched her struggle to get it writen surely we can find some way to get her keepung up with wprk while helping her improve.

Single mom hee so face time at school is hard. I do book fair, mudic perfoemances and at least one rrad a year.


June 21st, 2012
10:05 pm


I’m no expert but many kids with ADHD also have dyslexia and writing is very much affected with dyslexia. Here’s a site that has some good info to see if it might make sense to have her tested. It’s not cheap but they can also refer you to people who administer tests in your area.

Just Another day

June 21st, 2012
10:13 pm

Sorry….I can late to the conversation because I was at my SECOND job for the day. My Senior never would have made it through with out an IEP. Nothing asked for was exceptional. Maybe the IEP should be the STANDARD not the exception.

FCM on my cell

June 21st, 2012
10:39 pm

Thank you. i was thinking dyslexia might b it. i will check it out.

The Uneducated Public Makes Me Sick

June 22nd, 2012
1:32 am

504s can only be granted if a parent provides a documented medical diagnosis from a licensed physician. If parents don’t offer that information, it cannot be done. The process to determine if a child needs an IEP is a long and tedious process because of the issue of over saturating special education placements with chikdren who truly do not brlong there. The process is put in place to make sure that children are placed in the environment that best meets their needs. Ranting and raving does not make it happen because schools are held to mandates and steps to insure that the identification process is completed properly. Parents have to be willing to share ALL the information needed HONESTLY in order to facilitate a seamless process. Also, parents, educate yourselves. We preach to children the importance of doing theirs so do yours. It’s the only way you can truly advocate for your child. Your child’s education is a partnership between you and the school. Schools cannot do it all.

Dragonfly Lady

June 22nd, 2012
4:11 am

I came here from Florida. I received most of my Public School education there, as well as receiving my training to be a teacher.
While I was In school (in the mid 80’s to mid 90’s) I was at both ends of what Florida called the exceptional education spectrum. i was in a class for “Emotionally Handicapped” students (we later discovered I had SEVERE social anxiety which lead to acting out and that that class did me more harm than good) and 100% “mainstreamed” in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades and middle and high school. “Mainstreamed” meant I was with all the “normal” kids all the time but I still had to bring this from with smiley faces to monitor my behavior to every teacher every day. (humiliating). I was also in the “gifted” program from kindergarten on and in middle and high school taking all “honors/AP classes”. I graduated from High school and College with in a week of one another. My first foray in to college was to obtain my LPN license. 3 years later I went back to school to study to be a teacher.
Oh and I was Hard of hearing/Deaf from the 2nd grade to the start of High school.
Yes My parents were awesome involved parents and i ALWAYS had a book to keep me busy at school, just in case. My mom spent so much time arguing with the principals and guidance counselors at my schools that the administrators began to really hate hearing that she was coming in.
I am glad my parents fostered a life long love of learning in me and taught me that I am limited only by the limits I place on myself. I never had private tutors, and I worked hard to get where i am today. I really think parents need to remember that they are their children’s first teachers and lead by example. to this day my parents and i exchange books and links about various things that interest us.we read, we talk, we even argue (me, Mom, Dad, and sibs were all on debate teams at one point or another). We are the family that spends hours on the library and every one has their own library card so we can all get enough media to occupy us for the 3 weeks coming up. We also have to be dragged out of museums and National parks.


June 22nd, 2012
4:58 am

@ Scotty

When my son went from SNPre-K to elementary school (different schools, because SNPK was housed in one school with kids from 3 surrounding districts), a SPED teacher from Eastvalley came to the meeting which would dictate the IEP in place as he transitioned into kindergarten. At his IEP in 5th grade, a SPED teacher attended from Dickerson Middle in order to facilitate his transition to 6th grade. It sounds like you have a good team. Just cover your bases and be sure to request that a sped rep from the middle school attend your son’s IEP in 5th grade. Best of luck to your family!


June 22nd, 2012
7:56 am

@ DragonFly Lady…that is great for you and your family. I sincerely mean that. As someone who who did get a life long love of learning (from my father) I can understand where you are coming from. However, not all of us happy wonderful relationships with family….in fact most of us dysfunctions some are ones we can live with others aren’t.


June 22nd, 2012
7:58 am

I would like to know what specific, public schools, in metro Atlanta, elementary, middle, and high, are excellent for working with children with IEP’s. My daughter, a rising 3rd grader, has mild LD in reading and private school is not an option. I have the option to transfer her to a public school in her current district-Fulton County-or to a public school in another district. I heard that Coweta County has some public schools that do a fantastic job working with special education students. Is this true? Please be specific with the school name and the school’s county.

Anonymous for this one

June 22nd, 2012
8:08 am

Once Again –

Wow! Thanks for prejudging me. I don’t have children and I don’t mind paying taxes to support an educated populace because we all benefit by it.


June 22nd, 2012
9:52 am

@Atlanta Mom: I cannot believe that you would send you child to school with strategies to NOT participate in class. I don’t care HOW “gifted” they are — all students benefit from being challenged academically to the best of their ability, and if they aren’t getting that challenge, they are getting a second-rate education It is disingenuous to say that you are “glad” your kids attended your public school while at the same time commenting on how that very same school was unable to teach your kids to the best of their ability. How in the name of all that’s holy can you say with a straight face that they “got an education in life”? They learned to not excel and they learned to take the path of least resistance — that’s LIFE? If that marginal existence is your idea of “life”, then I am sorry for you.

I think the thing that irritates parents of gifted students is that school systems keep warbling about how they need to provide special needs kids with academic accommodations so that they can perform “to the best of their ability,” and yet gifted students are often NOT performing to the best of their ability because of lack of programming for them. We as parents are expected to supplement our gifted children’s education to provide enrichment for gifted students, because they don’t “need” help, while parents of special needs kids get to demand an increasing level of services and accommodations. Don’t get me wrong — it was my joy and pleasure to make those opportunities available to our children. My kids, my responsibility. MY responsibility, not the village’s. It’s one of the reasons we chose the private school route, even in the face of financial sacrifice.


June 22nd, 2012
1:12 pm

My son is both “gifted” and ADHD. It’s been a struggle getting him the help that he needs. On the gifted side, once he was in middle school they just didn’t want to deal with it. However, I educated myself and MADE them deal with it. It was an unfortunate situation because as an educator myself, I really understood the need to work as a team. They didn’t quite get that. Sigh!

My son as a 504 plan that the teachers must follow. The ADHD causes him to have severe organization issues. This means things get lost easily or misplaced. His meds allow him to settle down and focus better. I advise all parents to educate themselves on their rights. Some schools work well, others don’t. It’s up to you to help your child. Get educated!


June 22nd, 2012
1:19 pm

ALL kids are entitled to a FAPE! Once we get our heads around that, kids on both ends and in the middle will be treated better. At my school, about the only ones who get pulled out for special help are the GIFTED (their parents vote). They also get to go on field trips no others go on. But they are not “served” by push in.

Our sped and ESOL kids are “served” by push in. (They are in a regular classroom with a certified teacher or (sometimes for sped, parapro) doing the same things the other students are doing, even if they are not prepared, even if they have behavior issues that interfere with the other students’ learning) While sometimes that is appropriate, many times it is not. But the system gets more money by doing it that way.

Then we have EIP. As an EIP teacher I go into a classroom to work with the kids who are behind (failed the CRCT). My job is to “make them successful,” even if they are 3-4 years behind. I identify previous skils they should have mastered, and work with them on these skills. I also constitute a Tier 2 intervention, gathering data on their success or lack of success with the idea of performing miracles or refering on to Tier 3 (individual help). We have been doing this for 6 years now, with different “rules” each time, and virtually NO CHILD has been tested for sped! (Tier 4)

In our system, we rarely have a demanding parent of a sped kid. About half, I would estimate, of our sped kids have sped parents as well, In fact, those of us who have been working a long time know the parents from when they were in school!

It is funny. Most parents don’t want their kid labeled sped, but if there is a disability check attached, they lose their reservations fast.


June 22nd, 2012
2:23 pm

Fulton County teacher here. To answer OP’s original question about “getting the school to provide what your child needs,” here is some advice:

1) Communicate with the school about what’s going on at home. If your child is struggling, speak with the teacher sooner rather than later. We don’t know how long your child studied, how frustrated he was with his homework, or how long the project took him at home unless someone tells us. Also, don’t “help” by doing your child’s work for him or offering assistance beyond what is reasonable. If all we see is correct homework and thoughtful projects, we won’t know something’s wrong. (For this reason, though, I require the majority of my projects and writing to be completed at school so I can watch for problems).
2) If your child’s teacher contacts you about problems she’s seeig, please be respectful and take note. We really do care and want to help your child succeed!
3) Keep good records. Attend any meetings (be on time), save your child’s graded work, print off correspondence, keep logs of time spent on homework, etc. We have an extremely strict data-gathering process courtesy of the law so anything you can do to help with the paper trail is fantastic.
4) Be patient. I know it’s frustrating but the data-gathering process takes over six weeks–and that’s just the beginning. Getting mad at us won’t help. We’re following the law and if we cut corners by rushing we could invalidate our data and have to start all over.
5) Educate yourself via reliable sources, such as the GADOE website. Please do not rely on anecdotal evidence or the experience of friends.
6) Remember that everyone’s goal is to do right by your child. Don’t let “adult problems” such as school politics influence how your child views his teacher, himself, or the school. This is stressful enough on your child as it is.


June 22nd, 2012
2:29 pm

I teach students who are Gifted, Special Needs, have 504 accomodations, who perform average, below average, above average, and students who have little to no memory retention all at the same time.

Now can any of you non educators show me how to teach every single student at their respective level all at the same time with the same curriculum?

Fed Up

June 22nd, 2012
4:02 pm


When I went to school in VA in the 80s, there were gifted classes within each elementary school. In middle school, there were public “center schools” with an admission process. Then the county had a public magnet high school, which had a tougher admission process than most state universities.

It was OK to achieve. It was OK to acknowledge success. It was OK to skip grades, and it was OK to retain children. If you ask me, the whole problem started when schools required that all children be grouped by AGE as the only criteria. Nobody wins.

Once Again

June 22nd, 2012
4:24 pm

Anonymous for this one – You’re welcome. And by the way, you were the one who extended the value judgements first. I was just carrying through with the theme. If you support taxation as a mechanism for school funding then you believe that it is better to use the guns and force of government to steal money from people to pay for the education of others than it is to rely on the goodness of others and to achieve your desired goals through voluntary means. That is not pre-judging, that is a fact.

I believe in a well-educated society too. I just happend to have looked at the performance of government versus the free market, and know that the mechanism of force, the monopoly on choice, the inefficiencies inherent in a non-competitive, top-down bureaucratic system are ABSOLUTELY the reasons why this system does not deliver a quality education or produce a well-educated populace. I would much rather be able to (as I do with private schools I have attended) voluntarily contribute monies to those institutions I know do a great job.

Once Again

June 22nd, 2012
4:33 pm

It is interesting too to see everyone believing in the diagnosis delivered by the very institution that is failing your child as the excuse for why they are failing. I mean just look at the rampant diagnosis of ADHD. Could it be that the war against male youth has anything to do with this? Could it be that the elimination of PE, the covering of playgrounds with trailers, the rules against fun and frivolity might have something to do with why kids are acting up in class?

Thomas Szasz has some excellent writings on the subject of childhood “mental disorders” and the incentives to diagnose on the part of the medical/educational industry. Great reading for everyone facing the wrath of the psychobabble establishment. Not to disparage or question those with serious issues, but it does beg the question of why so many NOW when so few before (and no, I don’t buy the lie about “better diagnosis”).

Once Again

June 22nd, 2012
4:37 pm

Fed Up – You REALLY need to check out John Taylor Gatto and what he has discovered about grouping children by age and the motivation behind this move. If this issue upsets you enough…and it should, because you are right on with regard to the damage it has done to both high achievers and low achievers alike… then you should find out more about its origins and the “higher purpose” it serves.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 23rd, 2012
10:16 am

If I, as a retired SpEd teacher, had a grand/child with special needs, I’d take with me to my kin’s IEP meetings my civil rights lawyer-friend(who helped Federal District Judge Anthony A. Alaimo clean up the GA prison system in the early ’80s), my retired Recon Marine-friend (who guided our Abrams M1A1 Main Battle Tanks into Kuwait at the beginning of Desert Storm), and my retired US Army Senior NCO-friend(who helped pacify Bosnia in the ’90s).


June 23rd, 2012
10:35 am

This is another instance where schools are called upon to be all things to all kids. It is extremely difficult to ask a teacher to teach as it is in public school. Then, you add special needs students to the class with the various issues they have, some extreme, some very mild. And this whole course of discussion is about making the schools do more with less. Class sizes are growing and teachers haven’t seen encouraging signs from the state in local government in years. While you should be concerned about your child’s education, especially if they are a special needs student, realize that legally the school “has” to do everything for the child, in reality it is very difficult.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 23rd, 2012
3:00 pm


“(L)egally the school “has” to do everything for the child, (sic) in reality it is very difficult.”

Because doing the right thing for a child is “very difficult” is no reason not to do it.


June 23rd, 2012
5:41 pm

@FedUp–I hear you, however, it’s just another way to get more federal dollars for the school systems. In my county there are making the Gifted eligibility requirement easier so that more students can qualify; therefore, more money for the system.

It’s all a racket if you ask me.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

June 24th, 2012
5:21 am

The Richmond County BOE admits to receiving almost $45M from the feds annually. That’s an average of almost $1.5K per child per annum in its 31K-student system.

By the way, has any Mom ever seen a comprehensive financial audit report of a local public education agency(LEA) provided by a competent, disinterested, out-of-state entity?


June 25th, 2012
2:49 pm

Dr. Spinks –

I agree to a certain extent that being very difficult should not stop us from trying to do it. But, where is that point when we say enough is enough? I have a son who is autistic. I spent 15 years as a classroom teachers, and another 12 as a school administrator. I want everything in the world for my son and struggle each day for him to learn as does every educator that he comes in contact with. As a teacher once upon a time I experienced those struggles as the educator responsible for the children. Most of the parents were forgiving and understanding when as mightily as I tried just could not get their child to a specific level. But, we made a lot of progress and I could always show the gains that were made.

However, the ever present fear of being sued because of an over-zealous parent due to some slight oversight on my behalf was burdensome. And those often were the same parents who demanded so much from the school and the teacher. That is often why, in the real world, it is difficult to get regular education teachers to teach special needs students. It comes from those parents.

And that is why I posed the question I did: When is it enough? We all want what is best for the kids and we want to do our best. But, the reality is many parents want that and then some and school administrators are left with implementing an IEP with limited resources. Nothing in the IEP mentions limited resources and that, too, is a problem.

@ Dr. Spinks

June 25th, 2012
7:46 pm

Dr. Spinks – I am, quite frankly, astounded at your post. Yes, every child shouldbe served to the best of the school’s abilities. However, I know you are aware of the decimation of the schools’ budgets over the past years and special education services are costly. But furthermore, let’s put the picture in a clear perspective: a teacher these days does not have ONE student with an IEP in his or her class, they have SEVERAL students, with differing IEPs in ONE class.

I respect parents for wanting the best outcomes for their child, but public school cannot be everything to every student. There is just not enough trained personnel and budgetary allowances for everyone to accomplish everything. Just keeping track of five students in one class of 32 that have IEPs is daunting to even the most organized teachers. And for high school teachers, I mean those five students are in one of six classes a teacher will teach in a day. A teacher can have 15-20 IEPs requiring different levels of accommodation at any time. Keep in mind, as well, that a Special Education teacher must be “highly qualified” in their content area to teach a SpEd student. Personnel are not just widgets to fit in whatever capacity might work at that moment.

So should we not do anything? Of course not, but I appreciate the first poster’s point that collaboration needs to be a team effort and a realization of what a school can provide in these tough budgetary times. NCLB was created far before the budget crisis and actually is causing some of these issues, albeit for good intentions. Do not place the burden simply on schools.

And, as I say this, I realize that there are good school and bad schools when it comes to implementing IEPs. But I think the question “When is it enough?” is valid and needs to be addressed, especially with our wayward legislature, who is decimating the educational budget on a yearly basis.


June 26th, 2012
10:42 pm

As a teacher in the system who sees SPED teachers will overflowing caseloads, I knew that I had to get my own child in their for a 504 or IEP. I had him tested in 1st grade where he was borderline ADHD and the fabulous teacher had individually put mods in place for him to help with organization. His 2nd grade teacher was just as fabulous and had her “lil’ mommas” help him stay on track. With 3rd grade coming up and state testing with scores that count, I knew I couldn’t wait 60 days! That would have been 1/3 of the school year passed with no mods in place if needed with the 3rd quarter testing looming over him. I requested a special meeting at the end of the 2nd grade- beginning of May. At this time of the school year, SPED teachers are wrapping up caseloads and major testing is over. Your case should expedited because the school board WILL NOT PAY teachers to come in over the summer to meet with a parent regarding the child and test results. My son’s test scores were very high and he was not at risk, but he was deemed other help impairment because the ADHD was impacting his learning.
I also STRONGLY suggest that you check your child’s “vision” screening from K & 1st grade. He has 20/20 eyesight, but the vision of a 4 yr. old. My son had failed twice with no implications for the BOE to let me(even as a teacher) know what that meant. After 3 years of struggling in school, we find from the OT that this does impact his learning because his eyes do not work together. One shuts off when things become difficult and does not relay information to the brain. With 20 years of teaching, a Master’s Degree, and 2 children under the age of 10, I have never heard of this. I am singing for the roof tops praise for my son’s OT and Vision Therapist, Dr. Stanley Applebaum. Please educate yourself and others and I am with- Good luck!