If the school wants to change an accommodation that’s written in your child’s IEP, it must follow a process. The school must first give you notice of the change, and then hold an IEP meeting to discuss the change with you. At the meeting, you may end up giving consent. If so, the change goes into effect.
What happens if you disagree? The school must listen to your concerns, but it can still move ahead with the change. You can try to stop this using different ways to resolve the dispute. And you can delay the change temporarily by using your “stay put” rights.
But keep in mind that students often receive accommodations that aren’t included in their IEPs. So re-read your child’s IEP. If the accommodation is not written in there, the school can change it without giving notice or getting your consent. Even so, you can still call an IEP team meeting and talk about why the change is happening.
If your child has a 504 plan, the school doesn’t have to get your consent or include you in meetings. But you can ask to attend them. And if you disagree with a change the school makes to your child’s 504 plan, you can request an impartial hearing.
If you haven’t had a meeting yet to discuss the changes, ask for one right away. Here are three of the most common reasons a school might change a child’s accommodations—and ways you can respond:
1. Your child no longer needs them.
Ask why the school believes this. Also ask the school to give specific examples that show why it thinks your child can succeed without the accommodation.
If you’re not satisfied with the explanation, you can appeal the school’s decision. If you are satisfied, work with the school to prepare your child. Insist on a careful plan that will help your child understand why the accommodation will no longer be in place.
Here’s an example. A child who struggles to remember math facts may be allowed to use a calculator on math tests. But after working for several months with his teacher on math facts, his performance improves and he no longer needs a calculator to help him on math tests.
Sometimes a change like this can feel like punishment to a child. But you and the teacher can prepare your child in a way that makes it clear that this is evidence of improved skills.
You both might say something like, “You’ve put in a lot of hard work on your math facts, and look how your performance has improved over the last three months. Now your performance is strong and you don’t need the calculator.”
2. Your child is transitioning to a new school or a new grade.
Here’s an example. A grade school might agree to teach reading in the morning if that’s when a child with attention issues can focus better. But when your child moves to middle school, the schedule probably won’t allow for only reading first thing in the morning.
This is a common reason for changing accommodations. If this is the case with your child, be sure to ask the school which supports will be provided in place of the old ones so your child will continue to succeed.
3. Something else could help your child more.
The school might tell you it thinks a modification could help your child more than the accommodation.
An accommodation changes how your child does something. A common example is taking the same test as other kids but getting more time to complete it. But what happens if your child is no longer successful even with the extra time? A modification could change how many questions your child is expected to answer.
It’s also possible the school might decide your child needs specialized instruction instead of an accommodation. This isn’t all that common, but here’s an example that involves a child who struggles with taking notes.
The school might try seating him near the teacher to see if this helps him stay focused and take better notes. But his note-taking doesn’t improve with this accommodation. So after a while, the school stops providing preferential seating and instead has a special education teacher work with him on a different way of taking notes.
Schools need to make these decisions based on evidence, like work samples, showing that your child is struggling even with the accommodation. If you are not convinced, you can ask for an evaluation or a re-evaluation. That way, the results of the evaluation can inform the decision.
Most schools have very good reasons for wanting to change accommodations. But sometimes schools offer reasons that don’t make as much sense.
For instance, you might be told that a new teacher isn’t comfortable with an accommodation. Or that the school’s budget was cut. Or that your child doesn’t use the accommodation. Or even that parents of other students have complained that your child has an advantage.
Don’t accept these types of reasons. The law requires the school to develop an IEP or a 504 plan based on your child’s needs. This is why it’s important to ask questions and to insist on evidence before you decide whether to agree or to fight the decision.
As you’re prepping for your meeting, remember that kids are most successful
when schools and parents form a partnership. Try to work together and keep the lines of communication open. This is critical when changes are being considered for IEPs and 504 plans. By asking questions and insisting on evidence, you can be a good advocate for your child.