With the school year well underway, parents want to make sure their children are getting the best education possible. But for parents of children with learning disabilities this can be a challenge, often leaving parents feeling helpless.
There is a lot that parents can do to get their children with learning disabilities the best resources available. Many parents don’t realize that public schools are required to identify and help students with disabilities: if a student qualifies, the school may have to provide special services and accommodations such as assistive technologies, language therapy, and specialized classes.
Know the process
To ensure that your child is receiving the necessary support; there are steps that parents can take to navigate the school system. “First, it’s important for parents to understand that their child has the right to a free and appropriate public school education,” says Laura Kaloi, Director of Public Policy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a leading advocate group for the millions of Americans with learning disabilities. She adds that “all parents should take the time to familiarize themselves with these rights so that they can advocate for their child.”
Schools have a legal obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to determine whether a student qualifies for special education services – so if you think that your child has an unidentified disability, talk with your school administrator and make a formal, written request for an assessment. If your child has disabilities that qualify him or her for special education services, he or she will receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
For a child who does not qualify for special education services, but who still has a disability, a 504 plan may be implemented that spells out the modifications necessary to give your child access to the curriculum. For more information about your child’s rights, visit NCLD’s Your Child’s Rights section on LD.org. ( http://www.ncld.org/at-school/your-childs-rights)
Technology and beyond
Assistive technologies can help level the playing field for individuals with learning disabilities and help to provide them with equal access to education. If your child has qualified for an IEP, you should talk with the IEP team about what assistive technologies might be appropriate.
“Students with a learning disability are just as competent and proficient as other students, but they may require different teaching methods or tools,” says Ben Foss, director of access technology for the Intel Digital Health Group. Foss was behind the initial idea for the Intel Reader, a hand-held device that takes a picture of printed text and reads it out loud. Students gain access to text and the Intel Reader helps them to be independent and engaged.
Parents can learn more about assistive technologies and get additional tips on how to become proactively involved in their child’s education from the NCLD at LD.org. (http://www.ncld.org/at-school/your-childs-rights) Always remember that one of the best ways to support your child is to build a strong, positive relationship with all the people at school who play a role in educating your child.
Intel Corporation contributed content for this article