You should always be able to have the accommodations you need in school for your disability or health care needs. Sometimes it just takes some extra effort to get what you need. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do as well as other kids in school. You have the same rights to succeed. By law, every school has a process (a set way) for you to talk to teachers and others about what you need. Sometimes this plan or process is called an Individual Education Plan [IEP], a 504 plan, or sometimes something else.
Step 1: Evaluate what you need:
Sit down with your parents and decide what accommodations you need based on your disability. For example, extra time on tests, a note taker, or two sets of books. Only pick accommodations that are necessary for your disability. For example, if you don’t need a program on your computer to read your book to you, don’t ask for it. People with different disabilities need different things.
Step 2: Find a helpful resource at school:
A resource at school could be a teacher, vice-principal or counselor who is willing to work with you and make sure you get what you need. Once you find a helpful resource, have a meeting with that person and see what they can do to help you advocate for yourself. This person will serve as your case worker. To prepare for this meeting, ask other kids who get accommodations at school what works for them, or talk to the principal about what is available.
Step 3: Talk to your teachers:
Hold a meeting with all your teachers, your parents and your case worker present. With the help of these people, you should advocate for yourself. The teachers have overall power in the classroom, so it’s important that they understand your needs. If a meeting is not possible, have your case worker or parents write a letter. If you are in high school, talk to your teachers, expressing your needs and letting them know that they can contact your parents or case worker with any questions. If a teacher is unwilling to work with you, see what your case worker can do. If that does not work, talk to the administration (the principal or even your school board) about the problem. Teachers can’t discriminate against you.
Step 4: Have a follow-up meeting:
Several times during the school year, you should stop by to talk to your case worker and let them know how everything is going. Halfway through the year, you should have a meeting with your parents and case worker to talk about what is working for you and what isn’t. Try to have one teacher present also.
Other forms of advocating for yourself and getting what you need:
For more information check out:
Beach Center on Disability - www.beachcenter.org/
National Disability Rights Network - www.napas.org
Also, websites about your specific disability may have ideas for school accommodations.