Special Education

Ensuring the best education opportunities for your child

The earlier parents and teachers are able to identify learning difficulties, the easier it will be to get your child on the right track. Most children with epilepsy can attend school and participate in everyday activities. However, some children may experience difficulty learning and need additional support.

Factors related to seizures that can affect learning include:

  • Difficulty following directions or paying attention
  • Difficulty understanding or retaining information
  • Lack of organization
  • An increase in negative behaviors
  • Being tired or having trouble staying awake
  • Missing information during class if having absence seizures
  • Missing school for doctor visits or hospital stays

The EAWCP can help you to navigate your school’s special education system.

Parts of a Special Education Plan for Your Child

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) ensures that your child receives the proper education. A 504 Plan ensures access to that education.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that states that every child with a disability is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and will have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP describes the educational goals and accommodations, modifications, related services, and supports the school is required to provide. Under IDEA, parents are assured an active role in their child’s IEP process.

All schools must:

  • Identify students who have a disability or may be at risk of developing a disability
  • Refer the students for evaluation and complete a comprehensive evaluation
  • Develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and implement that plan

Developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

The school will arrange for your child to be tested and evaluated to determine:

  • How your child learns
  • What your child already knows
  • What supports need to be put into place to ensure your child’s academic success

This testing will also help to determine if your child needs special education or other services. As a parent, you are an important part of the evaluation team and are encouraged to provide as much information as possible about your child. This information can include letters from your child’s doctor about your child’s seizures and treatments, behaviors which are a result of medication and seizures, specific triggers associated with your child, and any social concerns you may have.

All of the information gathered about your child will be included in the evaluation report in order to determine if your child is eligible for special education or related services. It may also be necessary to make accommodations in your child’s classroom such as alternate learning materials, modified testing, or providing a classroom aide to help support your child.

The IEP is a plan designed to meet your child’s needs as identified in the evaluation report. The IEP team should focus on answering the following questions when creating the IEP:

  • What is the child’s current education level?
  • What goals do we have for the child?
  • What do we want the child to learn during the school year?
  • What special education services are needed to achieve these goals?

504 Plan

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the discrimination of public school students with disabilities. A 504 Plan is designed to remove barriers that would otherwise allow a child to thrive in a school setting. Examples of accommodations you can request for your child’s 504 Plan include:

  • Extended time for tests/assignments
  • Written notes/study guides
  • Extra copies of text books/materials to keep at home
  • Shortened or chunked assignments
  • Elevator access
  • Being exempt from certain physical activities as directed by a doctor (i.e., swimming)
  • Access to a place to rest after a seizure

Having a disability does not mean that your child will automatically qualify for a 504 Plan. Once you request a 504 Plan, the school will do an evaluation to determine if a 504 Plan is necessary.

Developing a 504 Plan

Once your child is approved for a 504 Plan, a 504 team will be formed that includes your child’s teachers, a special education teacher, the school principal, you the parents, and the child (if appropriate). Then the team will work together to build an appropriate 504 Plan for your child. A 504 Plan should include specific accommodations, supports, services, names of school staff to provide each service, and the name of the person who will make sure the 504 Plan is being followed. Other things that a 504 Plan may include are specialized instruction in the classroom, and related services like speech or other therapies.

Once a 504 Plan is established, make sure your child knows what accommodations and services are available to them. Stay up to date on how the 504 Plan is working in the school, and tell your school principal and/or 504 team about any concerns you may have.

Issues in School

Your child is protected from discrimination in the school through the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act if they go to a public school, or a private school which receives any federal funds (funds do not have to be teaching-related). The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is the only protection available to children with disabilities in private schools that do not receive federal funds.

If you think that your child’s school is not following the IEP or 504 Plan, you should:

  1. Talk to the school immediately. You can address your concerns with the teacher that may not be following the plan, with the principal, with the special education coordinator, or call an IEP meeting to share your concerns.
  2. Contact the EAWCP. If you’ve already talked to the school and the plan is still not being followed, you can call us and we can step in to help.
  3. Seek legal guidance. If you have tried working with the school numerous times already and they are still not compliant, you can seek legal assistance from a number of organizations to help you advocate for your child’s rights.

Special Education Laws

Several federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. These laws are in place to ensure that students with disabilities receive all of the supportive services and programs they may need to succeed academically.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including work, school, and any area open to the general public. Through the ADA, individuals with disabilities may be entitled to certain accommodations, such as reasonable accommodations in school or the workplace, accessible public spaces, and service animals.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes a free appropriate public education available to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children. The IDEA helps to provide and allocate funds to specific special education programs for children from birth to age 21.

Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is legislation that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities.

Other Resources

About Learning Disabilities

A site from the United Kingdom offering comprehensive advice on learning disabilities.

Bureau of Special Education Complaint Information Packet and Form

This link contains information and a formal complaint form from the PA Department of Education.

Center for Parent Information and Resources

A guide to communicating with your child’s school through letter writing.

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP)

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) works to advance and protect the civil rights of adults and children with a wide range of disabilities to ensure their rights to live in their communities with the services they need, to receive a full and inclusive education, to live free of discrimination and abuse and neglect, and to have control and self-determination over their services.

The Education Law Center

412-391-5225 (Pittsburgh)
717-238-7171 (Harrisburg)
The Education Law Center’s mission is to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania.

Mission Empower

An Erie-based organization to help parents of students with special needs. This site lists your rights as a student and as a parent.

Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR)

Offers resources and alternatives for filing a complaint, as well as the ability to file a complaint if needed.

ODR’s ConsultLine

The Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR) offers ConsultLine, which is a phone hotline, designed to help answer any special education related questions.

PA Department of Education

Guidelines for PSSA and Keystone Exams

PaTTAN — Annotated IEP

This document explains what is contained in an IEP and why it is there.

PaTTAN — Special Education Timeline

Details how long each step of special education should take, dependent upon the action.


Online resource providing information, tips, and resources to parents and educators of students with learning disabilities.

Wrights Law

The Wrights Law website has thousands of resources for parents, students, and educators regarding legislation and advocacy.