Education and Autism

Milos mama

Message from Milo's Mama:

Breathe; inhale, exhale. Repeat. Remember, you are doing your very best and you are amazing! When it comes to knowing next steps, what to do, and how to take care of the educational side, it can be hard to know where to begin. I wish I would have known some of these things, and that’s why I share them with you. If you know someone who is apprehensive about talking to their doctor, tell them about this wonderful free service. It never hurts to get an evaluation. What does hurt, is not getting the help they need. – Milo’s Mama

Education Resources

Ages 0-3

Did you know that if you have concerns as early as birth, you can contact your local school district for a free evaluation? Children who are eligible for Early Intervention, or Part C (Birth-3) Special Education Services are provided in home services at no cost to your family. Early Intervention Services are guided by family driven goals and priorities. Children, and their families who participate in these services have access to entire team of specialist that include, but are not limited to Early Childhood Special Educator, Speech Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Hearing and Vision Services, Assistive Technology, School Psychologist, and a Services Coordinator or case manager. For more information:

Here are the links to Nebraska and Iowa Part C Services

Resources for the Early Intervention in Nebraska:

You may find that you will get an IFSP, here is a link to more information:

If you are finding yourself needing more assistance or have more concerns, please contact your medical professional to help. Sometimes a child will need additional service. Please see our Therapy Services for those listings. **NOTE** its always important to talk to your medical professional first for advice. Also, some therapeutic centers and insurance companies will not cover medically based therapy without a proper diagnosis.

More information to come

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) vs 504 Plans

Both Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans can offer formal help for K–12 students who are struggling in school. They’re similar in some ways but very different in others. This chart compares them side by side to help you understand the differences.

IEP 504 Plan
Basic Description A blueprint or plan for a childs special educationexperience at school. A blueprint or plan for how the school will provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability.
What It Does Provides individualized special education and related services to meet a childs unique needs.

These services are provided at no cost to families.

Provides services and changes to the learning environment to enable students to learn alongside their peers.

As with an IEP, a 504 plan is provided at no cost to families.

What Law Applies The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This is a federal special education law for children with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This is a federal civil rights law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities.

Who’s Eligible To get an IEP, there are two requirements:

  1. A child has one or more of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA. The law lists specific challenges, like learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and others.
  2. The disability must affect the childs educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum. The child must need specialized instruction to make progress in school.
To get a 504 plan, there are two requirements:

  1. A child has any disability. Section 504 covers a wide range of different struggles in school.
  2. The disability must interfere with the childs ability to learn in a general education classroom.

Section 504 has a broader definition of a disability than IDEA. (It says a disability must substantially limit one or more basic life activities. This can include learning, reading, communicating, and thinking.) Thats why a child who doesnt qualify for an IEP might still be able to get a 504 plan.

Independent Educational Evaluation Families can ask the school district to pay for an independent educational evaluation(IEE) by an outside expert. The district doesnt have to agree.

Families can always pay for an outside evaluation themselves, but the district may not give it much weight.

Doesn’t allow families to ask for an IEE. As with an IEP evaluation, families can always pay for an outside evaluation themselves.
Who Creates It There are strict legal requirements about who participates. An IEP is created by an IEP teamthat must include:

  • The childs parent or caregiver
  • At least one of the childs general education teachers
  • At least one special education teacher
  • School psychologist or other specialist who can interpret evaluation results
  • A district representative with authority over special education services

With a few exceptions, the entire team must be present for IEP meetings.

The rules about whos on the 504 team are less specific than they are for an IEP.

A 504 plan is created by a team of people who are familiar with the child and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This might include:

  • The childs parent or caregiver
  • General and special education teachers
  • The school principal
What’s in It The IEP sets learning goals and describes the services the school will provide. Its a written document.

Here are some of the most important things the IEP must include:

  • The childs present levels of academic and functional performance—how the child is currently doing in school
  • Annual education goals for the child and how the school will track progress
  • The services the child will get—this may include special education, related, supplementary, and extended school year services
  • The timing of services—when they start, how often they occur, and how long they last
  • Any accommodations—changes to the childs learning environment
  • Any modifications—changes to what the child is expected to learn or know
  • How the child will participate in standardized tests
  • How the child will be included in general education classes and school activities
There is no standard 504 plan. Unlike an IEP, a 504 plan doesnt have to be a written document.

A 504 plan generally includes the following:

  • Specific accommodations, supports, or services for the child
  • Names of who will provide each service
  • Name of the person responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented
Notice When the school wants to change a childs services or placement, it has to tell families in writing before the change. This is called prior written notice. Notice is also required for any IEP meetings and evaluations.

Families also have stay put” rights to keep services in place while theres a disagreement about the IEP.

The school must notify families about an evaluation or a “significant change” in placement. Notice doesn’t have to be in writing, but most schools do so anyway.
Consent A parent or caregiver must consent in writing for the school to evaluate a child. They must also consent in writing before the school can provide the services in an IEP. A parent or caregiver’s consent is required for the school district to evaluate a child.
How Often It’s Reviewed and Revised The IEP team must review the IEP at least once a year.

The child must be reevaluated every three years to determine whether services are still needed.

The rules vary by state. Generally, a 504 plan is reviewed each year and a reevaluation is done every three years or when needed.
How to Resolve Disputes IDEA gives families several ways to resolve disputes (usually in this order):

  • Mediation
  • Due process complaint
  • Resolution session
  • Civil lawsuit
  • State complaint
  • Lawsuit
Section 504 gives families several options for resolving disagreementswith the school:

  • Mediation
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Impartial hearing
  • Complaint to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Lawsuit
Funding/Costs Students receive these services at no charge.

States receive additional funding for students with IEPs.

Students receive these services at no charge.

States do not receive extra funding for students with 504 plans. But the federal government can take funding away from programs (including schools) that don’t meet their legal duty to serve kids with disabilities.

IDEA funds can’t be used to serve students with 504 plans.


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