Helping Children in School
There are multiple ways to help your child in school. If you don't want to go down an official path, see our page on Effective Advocacy as well as our Resources.
If you would like to pursue official school-based accommodations and interventions, there are a few approaches. In the United States, students are protected by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 which guarantees free, appropriate public education for all students with educationally disabling conditions (1). This act has had multiple amendments, including a name change in 1993 to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act.
504 plans are named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prevents discrimination of those with disabilities. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (a) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (b) have a record of such an impairment; or (c) be regarded as having such an impairment. Specific learning disabilities such as dysgraphia count as an impairment. A 504 plan is typically easier to qualify for than an IEP (which is covered below).
504 plans detail how the student will be treated fairly and how the school supports the student. Importantly, accommodations are usually included in the plan that can help support a student with a learning disability to be on a more level playing field with their classmates. Parents, as well as teachers and administrators, should be involved in developing the plan to best help the student.
Examples of accommodations that you could include for writing difficulties:
Extra time with test-taking
Use of assistive technology (talk-to-text, etc) or more computer access for writing assignments
Use of special writing paper or pencil grips
Allowance of fidget tools/hand strengthening tools
Allowing peers to take notes for the student
Providing handouts or notes for the student instead of copying
IEPs - Individual Education Programs
(1) Twenty-Five Years of Progress in Educating Children with Disabilities Through IDEA, US Dept of Education.
(2) Katusic SK et al, Pediatrics, 2009.
(3) IDEA, Section 1414.
(4) A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, US Dept of Education.
(5) IDEA, Section 300.321.
Individual Education Programs, known as IEPs, are legal documents that are required by the IDEA Act. Children/teens with dysgraphia can qualify for IEPs under the category of "specific learning disability in written expression."
Either school professionals or parents can request that a child be evaluated. However, many parents find that the eligibility qualification can be a difficult process.
By law, the IEP must include certain information about the child and the educational program designed to meet his or her unique needs (3,4). Some of this information includes:
A statement of current performance
Measurable, annual goals
How the progress towards goals will be measured
Listing of special education services and aids that will be provided
Dates and places of services (when, where, how often, for how long)
A statement of accommodations, including for state/district tests
For teens, considerations for needs when transitioning out of school
Every IEP has an "IEP Team" that consists of at least the parents, a special education teacher, a regular education teacher, an individual who can interpret the child's evaluation, and a representative of the school system (4,5). Others can also be included, such as the student and individuals with knowledge or expertise about the student. Once the IEP is agreed to by the IEP team, the document is distributed to parents and all of the child's teachers. Parents receive progress reports on the IEP goals, measured as stated in the IEP.
The IEP team meets at least once yearly to review the IEP and revise it if needed. Additionally, the child must be re-evaluated every three years to confirm that he or she is still eligible for an IEP.