Question: My daughter wants to try out for the middle school drama club. She has dyslexia and gets accommodations and services in her IEP. Do IEPs cover extracurricular activities as well as academics?
Yes, IEPs do cover extracurriculars—but only when it comes to school-sponsored activities. That includes things like band, chorus, sports, and before- and after-care programs.
Extracurriculars are a big part of the school experience for many students. They provide an opportunity to develop skills, be part of a team and make new friends.
In 2004, Congress acted to make sure kids with IEPs would be able to take part. It made changes to IDEA to cover extracurriculars.
IDEA states that schools must take steps to give kids with IEPs an “equal opportunity to participate” in extracurricular activities. This means schools must give students with IEPs the help they need to take part. That includes both supports and services. The activities, along with the services and supports, however, must be in the child’s IEP.
What kinds of services might a child need to participate in an extracurricular? It depends on what the IEP team decides is appropriate. For instance, if a child wants to join the drama club but has speech issues, he could use speech therapy services that are in his IEP.
In addition to getting services and supports through an IEP, kids have other protections. Schools can’t discriminate against kids with disabilities. They can’t have rules that would limit participation in extracurriculars based on stereotypes of kids with disabilities.
For example, an illegal stereotype would be that kids with dyslexia can’t act in plays because they can’t read scripts. Again, kids with IEPs have the right to reasonable accommodations so they can take part. For a child with dyslexia, that may be audiobook versions of drama club scripts.
Despite these protections, it’s important to keep in mind that students don’t automatically have a right to participate in any particular sport or activity. Many extracurricular activities, like sports, have tryouts. Just like other kids, a child with an IEP would have to make the team in order to participate.
However, they do have the right to try out with needed supports. They also have the right to be treated fairly in the judging, and to get supports if chosen to be on the team.
You can meet with your child’s IEP team at any time to discuss extracurriculars for your child. Talk about the activities your child wants to join, and the supports or services that should be in the IEP.
The IEP team might invite other school staff, such as coaches or behavior specialists. They can help determine what types of supports your child may need. That might include related services, accommodations or modifications. It’s also a good idea to invite the school staff who supervise the extracurricular activity.
In case you’re wondering, kids with 504 plans have most of the same rights as those with IEPs when it comes to extracurriculars. Like kids with IEPs, they have the right not to be discriminated against. They also have the right to reasonable accommodations. In most cases, though, kids with 504 plans won’t get services for extracurricular activities.
Learn ways to help make extracurriculars a successful experience for your child. And find out how these activities can help build your child’s self-esteem.
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