Imagine you injured your foot. Your doctor sets you up with a pair of crutches—an accommodation—so you can walk.
Now imagine someone other than you is in charge of those crutches—and will only give them to you on an “as needed” basis. That person might look at you and think you can hop on one foot from the sofa to the bathroom just fine. You know otherwise. You know that without those crutches, you are at risk of falling and perhaps another injury. You need those crutches.
Now imagine your child in school.
Perhaps your child has the accommodation “frequent breaks as needed”.
Your child’s frequent breaks are kin to the crutches you need to walk. He or she needs them to make it through the day.
Unlike you, your child is younger, and perhaps has different struggles that get in the way of your child being able to communicate that he or she needs a break.
This means it is up to your child’s teacher to ensure your child is provided frequent breaks.
If “as needed” follows “frequent breaks” in your child’s IEP or 504, your child will be like you, hopping from the sofa to the bathroom, and at risk for injury.
Remove “as needed” and your child’s teacher has to ensure “frequent breaks” all the time—and it is the teacher’s responsibility, not your child’s, to ensure this accommodation is provided.
In the first 504s my son had, there was a lot of “as needed” language.
I didn’t understand the process and believed the teachers to have my child’s best interest at heart.
As the years progressed—and my son received an IEP and I gained fluency in the language and process of special education—I discovered three things:
- Not all educators operate in the best interest of the child (think of the schools that push kids through to graduation, even though the kids have no business being graduated).
- There are a lot of nice teachers who are ignorant when it comes to IEPs and 504s. One of my son’s elementary school teachers told me she didn’t speak much in “those meetings” because her opinion didn’t matter. Are you kidding me? She was his main teacher, for all but one subject. She knew him better than anyone else. She should have been leading all the meetings.
- Many school IEP or 504 team members don’t understand why specific things are worded the way they are or done the way they are done.
It’s like my dad, who used to tie the Christmas tree to the closest curtain rod every year, because that’s what his dad did. He finally “got it” and bought a good Christmas stand, so the fear of a falling tree disappeared, but . . . It took a while and he spent years doing something just because that’s what he’d seen done before him.
Often, parents have to educate the team members. Just because they work for the school doesn’t make them the experts. It just makes them people who work at a school.
If “as needed” appears on any IEP or 504 plan put in front of you, request that the words be removed. If you’re advised “that’s how we do it”, ask for documentation citing this to be true, and pull out IDEA or Section 504, and point out “as needed” doesn’t appear in either. A child doesn’t need an IEP plan or a 504 plan as needed. Children need everything in their IEPs or 504s period.