When we got our son’s autism diagnosis, I was unsure of what to expect going into our first ARD meeting. ARD stands for admission, review and dismissal and determines your child’s eligibility for services within the school.

If your child qualifies then they are given an IEP. Individualized Education Plans define services that the child qualified for and the actions required by the school to offer a “ fair and equal” opportunity for education.

I remember a lot of testing and observing. There were quite a few tears as most meetings are based on cataloging and reviewing your child’s deficits in pretty detailed ways. And, then providing you with a list of services that the school can provide.

Sometimes you agree with them and sometimes you put on your mom voice, some armor and devise a plan of action to refute.

One of the concepts I was most confused about was the term special education vs. 504.

If my child was getting evaluated by the special education coordinator and various specialists provided by the school, doesn’t that make him fall into special education?

Sam qualified for special education and ended up receiving speech, OT and social therapies from school in addition to what we provide privately.

He will continue to utilize an IEP that will update through the year.

504 is meant to cover students who do not qualify for special education but still need assistance.

For example, if Katia has depression, OCD or severe testing anxiety then she may qualify for 504. She may need extra time on her tests, fewer choices on multiple choice work or someone to read her the questions aloud. Accommodations that would set Katia up for success. And, while special education services and 504 plans do not necessarily follow you to college, colleges do offer to extend the accommodations that Katia needed to be successful in high school most of the time.

Being a special needs parent means that information is the key to success.

Being prepared before an ARD meeting and being actively involved in setting your child’s IEP goals is imperative.

They need you to advocate for them and their education.

Be their voice until they can find their own.


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