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Children with Special Educational Needs: A Guide for Newcomers and Ex-Pats

This article by therapist Jason Davis was originally posted in 2012 but it contains great info parents can use now.

Parents who have concerns about a child’s academic or behavioral progress turn to schools to help them determine what is best for their child. Likewise, when school personnel notice a child having difficulty maintaining passing grades or appropriate behavior, they will act as a special education advocate and may turn to parents to introduce options for intervention.

In the United States, school districts have programs that can assist parents in determining the appropriate academic placement and interventions for their children with special educational needs. Many parents do not know what these programs do or how they can best assist their child and it can indeed be confusing. Most interventions will either be classified as 504 or Special Education.

The term, “504 program” comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This national law protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities. If parents or the school can document that a child has a disability, part of the special education process are interventions that can be designed to help the child succeed academically. 504 interventions are usually classified as “accommodations.” Examples of disabilities that can be covered under the 504 program include everything from something temporary like a broken arm to chronic conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, or diabetes.

Special education programs fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These programs are designed for children who have a disability that is considered a “qualifying condition.” Examples of qualifying special education disabilities are blindness, deafness, and developmental delays. Children receiving special education services will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) rather than accommodations.

Parents are encouraged to visit the government website for IDEA and talk to their local school district to learn more about disabilities that fall under both 504 and special education and how they can partner with their school to develop the best plan for their child.

Jason Davis is a Licensed Professional Counselor. He received his Masters of Science in Counseling from the University of Houston Clear Lake and a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater from the University of Texas at Austin. He can be found providing counseling services at in The Woodlands, Texas. Contact Jason at 936-697-2822 or

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