Friday, June 21, 2024

Episode #79: IEPs vs 504 Plans: Understanding the Differences

Show Notes: In this episode, Helen Panos, owner of Dynamis Learning in Atlanta, GA, and Heather Wright, a Master IEP Coach, share a wealth of knowledge and guidance on the important topics of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans for students with disabilities. These passionate advocates offer a comprehensive overview of these plans, emphasizing the critical role that parents play in their children's educational journey. Throughout the discussion, the conversation underscores the need for a collaborative approach, emphasizing that the school system, educators, and parents should work as a team to ensure that each student's unique strengths and weaknesses are recognized and addressed. Additionally, they highlight the importance of early intervention, early identification of potential issues, and ongoing communication to foster a supportive educational environment. Overall, this podcast interview provides an essential resource for parents, teachers, and anyone interested in the world of special education. The conversation highlights the importance of advocating for every child's unique needs and creating an inclusive educational environment through collaboration and communication. 📣 Connect with Helen: WEBSITE: FREE Advocacy Brochure: PODCAST: INSTAGRAM: FACEBOOK: YOUTUBE: 📣 Connect with Heather: WEBSITE: INSTAGRAM: FACEBOOK: Are you getting our newsletter? If not, subscribe at 👉 Support our podcast and help us share more incredible stories by making a donation at Buy Me A Coffee. Your contribution makes a significant impact in bringing these stories to light. Thank you for your support! Music Used: “LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Artist:

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Show Notes:

In this episode, Helen Panos, owner of Dynamis Learning in Atlanta, GA, and Heather Wright, a Master IEP Coach, share a wealth of knowledge and guidance on the important topics of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans for students with disabilities. These passionate advocates offer a comprehensive overview of these plans, emphasizing the critical role that parents play in their children’s educational journey. After hearing their discussion, you’ll be a pro at understanding the difference between IEPs vs 504 Plans!

Throughout the discussion, the conversation underscores the need for a collaborative approach, emphasizing that the school system, educators, and parents should work as a team to ensure that each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses are recognized and addressed. Additionally, they highlight the importance of early intervention, early identification of potential issues, and ongoing communication to foster a supportive educational environment.

Overall, this podcast interview provides an essential resource for parents, teachers, and anyone interested in the world of special education. The conversation highlights the importance of advocating for every child’s unique needs and creating an inclusive educational environment through collaboration and communication.

📣 Connect with Helen:

📣 Connect with Heather:

Are you getting our newsletter? If not, subscribe at

👉 Support our podcast and help us share more incredible stories by making a donation at Buy Me A Coffee. Your contribution makes a significant impact in bringing these stories to light. Thank you for your support!

Music Used:

“LazyDay” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Meet Today’s Guests:

Helen Panos is an accomplished educator with over 25 years experience in a public school system. Helen began Dynamis Learning 7 years ago. Its a K-12 nationwide tutoring/SAT/ACT Prep, advocacy & academic planning company. With Helen’s depth of expertise, she is able to provide personalized support and solutions for academic success. She has up to 20 tutors on staff, and these educators have various specialties. They can tutor at the child’s home or library in the metro Atlanta area OR virtually nationwide.
You can follow Helen on her podcast, Smart Parents Successful Students, as she has a wealth of information to share with parents.



Heather Wright, M.Ed. is a special education consultant who began her career more than 16 years ago as a middle school special education teacher. She is passionate about the world of special education and supporting families through this seemingly difficult process by providing them with the tools that allow them to be an advocate for their child all while developing a plan to move their education forward.  She provides a variety of services to meet the unique needs of families, starting with a free 30 minute phone consultation. 

She obtained her masters degree in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders from Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia and is also a member of the Master IEP Coach® Network.  She currently works with families of children with learning disabilities, autism, developmental delays, behavior disorders, and other health impairments, to get the supports and services in the public-school setting, through collaboration. Parents know their children best and are their best advocates; however, they don’t have to be alone! 

Heather grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and moved to Georgia in 2006, where she lives with her husband and two fur babies. When she is not working you can find her cooking and baking, crafting, binge watching her favorite show, or enjoying the lake.

Episode #79: IEPs vs 504 Plans: Understanding the Differences

(Recorded August 9, 2023)

Full Transcript of Interview:

Tonya: All right. Today I have the pleasure of hosting two important guests, Helen Panos and Heather Wright with me, and they are here to shed some light on an important topic, and that is understanding 504 plans and IEPs and the similarities and differences between them. So Helen and Heather, welcome to Water Prairie.

Heather: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here today.

Helen: Yes, thank you for having me as well.

Tonya: So I’ve, I’ve been looking forward to this because this is a topic that I’ve been wanting to bring on since we started the podcast. So it’s been over a year and a half now. And we did have, um, the Nicole Schlechter came on and she’s the IEP Mom.

So we did talk a little bit, um, early on with that. So, and, and those that are listening, I will link this in the, in the show notes if you want to go back and hear what she had to share, but, um, but we didn’t get into really. a deep dive on comparing the two plans and I think a lot of parents are not sure exactly what it is.

Before we jump into the topic, this season we’re playing a game with all of our guests called Two Truths and a Lie and I’ve asked Helen and Heather if they would bring their facts or pseudo facts with them and they both have agreed to play with me. So, um, I’m going to start actually with Heather and ask her if she’ll share her facts with you first and as you’re listening I want to try to figure out which one is a lie of the three.

After you listen to the episode, go and look at Instagram or Twitter and leave your guess in the comments. Or if you’re watching on YouTube, you can leave it in the comments on the video. But listen to the whole episode first. So, Heather, what are your three facts that you have for us?

Heather: So, we’ll go with, um, my background was I was a middle school special education teacher, and mostly math, and I loved teaching middle school math because I actually loved being a middle school kid. Um, I also say special education chose me.

Tonya: So, Helen, can you top that one?

Helen: I’ll try. Um, let’s see. So, um, I was chosen to go to Plains, Georgia to work with 14 other, um, let’s see, Georgia educators. And I met, actually, while I was there I met, uh, President, uh, Jimmy Carter and his wife. And then, another is, I was in the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics. I was actually on the field performing. And the last is that I am a triplet. So one of those is a lie.

Tonya: All right, so listeners, take your guests, see if you can figure them out. And then, um, and then leave your comment a week after we post this, we’ll come back and we’ll put the answer so you can check your, your work there.

I invited Helen and Heather because, um, Helen has an extensive background and experience as a 504 chair and Heather is a master IEP coach. So I thought this, this was the perfect pair to come in and to help us understand about what, what a 504 is, what an IEP is, what the differences and listeners, if you’re outside of the U.S., these plans won’t apply to you, but you may have something similar to that. So, um, so listen through. It may give you some ideas of things that you can ask your, your own school for your child or the authorities that, that you’re working with, but at least give you an idea of what some of the things that are happening in the U.S. are, but for those that are in the U. S. This is, this is specifically for you to understand more what’s happening. And I know I get a lot of questions trying to understand the differences, the laws around them and all. So I think this is a great topic for us to pull in. And my goal today is that our listeners can understand the differences between the two, the criteria, some of the protections, and even the administration of the plans.

So the questions I’m going to be asking will be kind of geared toward those things. And um, so with three of us, it’s a little bit different in this. So listeners, you’re just going to have to. to, to stick with us as, as we try to do like a ping pong here between, between everyone. So let’s start with, uh, just a baseline.

Could, could, could one or both of you jump in and explain just briefly what is a 504 plan and what is an IEP?

Helen: A 504 plan is out of the section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19, I think it’s 73. Is that right? I think it’s 73. It’s way back in the day. And really this wasn’t even being used for a long time because I was an educator for 25 years and I’d say in the last 10 years you’re really Seeing a lot of 504 plans.

Um, Especially because of a diagnosis like ADHD that’s become very popular these days. So Um, the office of civil rights is the one that actually is the federal agency that kind of monitors a section 504 compliance And it’s also the responsibility of each district to ensure that the 504 is compliant and being monitored.

So the office of the OCR, the Office of Civil Rights monitors it. It comes down to there’s a 504 coordinator in the school system. They oversee it all. They have meetings because there’s usually I say usually because there’s been some changes since Covid. But usually there’s a 504 chair that oversees it in a school within the school systems.

It should be a 504 chair in the school. That oversees it, um, and basically it allows accommodations if you have a medical diagnosis or you know, anything, um, physical, ADHD, anxiety, those are the popular ones, uh, dyslexia, to allow your child to have accommodations if the need is shown, meaning it’s shown in the school.

Um, not just at home. Okay. So, um, because the teachers are having the meeting. They’re part of it. Parent comes in, teachers have the meeting with the 504 chair. And those are done annually. Okay. Now, you do have to get a re evaluation every three years as well. So, then you have to kind of go back to your pediatrician or your doctor to, to then do a re evaluation.

But you can always add in a diagnosis, you know, anytime, really. I’ve had multiple father of four meetings in a year sometimes for one child. So, that’s pretty much it.

Tonya: We’re going to talk a little deeper into it too, but that kind of, so, so parents listening, that’s, that’s the 504. Heather, can you fill in what an IEP is?

Heather: Yes, I’d love to. So an IEP, um, you’ll hear it as Individualized Education Plan or Program. Depending on where you’re at, the P kind of changes, but it’s all the same thing. Individualized Education Plan or Program. And what it is, is the document that outlines the specific supports. And methods in which a child that has an eligibility for special education under the 13 eligibility, one of the 13 eligibility criterias, um, that’s under IDEA law, um, you get determined that you’re eligible for special education and then a plan that IEP is developed.

Supports accommodations that supports individualized instruction or, um, differentiated instruction, and that’s really the biggest difference between the 504 plan and special education and IEP. So, with the 504 plan, you can get accommodations to support your learning, your social, behavioral, anything really.

With the accommodation side with an IEP you get the accommodations, but you also have specially designed instruction So it is provided by a special education teacher and they individualize your learning to meet your unique needs.

Tonya: Okay, so before we go any further Helen you had mentioned that dyslexia would come under 504 I’m assuming not for every child that has dyslexia though because some may require specialized.

Helen: Yeah, there’s a fine line and maybe Heather can say where that fine line is, but that’s correct. Uh, not every dyslexia is a 504, it could be an IEP, you know, because maybe a lot of times when you get a diagnosis, you usually have something else as well. They usually come in pairs. Um, so if you have ADHD, you might have executive functioning. If you have dyslexia, it might be something else as well. So you’re correct about that. Not all. 504s are IEP, or um, dyslexia is 504s.

Tonya: Okay. Okay. So, Helen, as a former 504 chair, could you tell us about the students that would typically benefit from a 504 plan? So we just talked about a couple of them there. Um, can you go, go a little, little deeper on that?

Helen: Sure. I’d say even, okay, so I think there’s a misconception out there that maybe gifted kids wouldn’t have a 504 plan, but actually to the contrary, you’ll see a dual classification is what we call it, where a kid could be I, uh, special ed classified and a gifted classified child.

And my guess is that’s where you’re going to see a 504. You could see an IEP instead, but if it’s not too severe and they can, it fits under a 504, you could get accommodations for the ADHD. Like extended time, small group testing. Um, sit, sit in the front of the room, you know, all these kind of things. Um, ADHD is still number one, even though anxiety is probably running right up there next to it now, I hate to say, then it may need to go to an IEP because they get more specialized attention and instruction.

They’re not going to do that with a 504 and a 504 plan. It’s just the teachers, the typical classroom teachers are going to get your 504 plan with accommodations and they have to follow them by law. There’s no special teacher coming in to assist, and Heather can talk more about that. Uh, like you see in an IEP.

Tonya: Would that also include a child who is, um, maybe diabetic that just needs medication during the day?

Helen: That would be a 504. That was the number one thing that came out. I think strongly with the 504 plans was Diabetics right and then it’s now You know molded over toward add in now ADHD and dyslexia and all these other things anxiety. I’ve seen oh, I’ve had to look up some things. I never even knew existed. A lot of things out there.

Tonya: Would it also include a student who has a temporary need such as a broken leg or something like that? Would that also be a 504?

Helen: Uh, you know, they try not to do it. And if we think the child is not going to be, and it’s up to the parent kind of there. If we don’t think the child’s going to be in a cast for very long, or now that they’re all going a lot more, uh, computerized, they don’t have to write as much, right?

If it’s a broken arm. They usually work it out with the nurse because the nurse will get a plan as well, a health plan, right? So usually they can work it out. Parents should stay on top of that because if they see it’s getting too difficult for the child Yes, I’d go with a 504 so you could be protected.

Heather: I also wanted to take you back on that too, is that even with a 504 plan you still can get have access to related services So That could be special education, and I say special ed transportation because that’s what it’s called, like, when we’re documenting it, but transportation, if you need it for a child with a 504, can still be included on a 504 plan.

You don’t have to have an IEP in order to get transportation, you know. I’m, again, I’m calling it special ed transportation, but transportation can be added as a related service into a 504.

Helen: And homebound, homebound services as well.

Heather: Also, a tutor coming out. It could also be the other related services could be OT like occupational therapy I have a client right now that has a 504 plan that has OT consult and written into their 504 plan with transportation as well So you can get some supports That maybe an IEP would provide through a 504 You just have to have the data to back that up and support why the kid requires that level of support So I just wanted to interject on that too because a lot of the times parents I think, well, I can just get accommodations, and I can’t get any other additional supports, but it could be related services on top of those accommodations as well.

Helen: Right. Okay. Good. I do want to add while I’m thinking about it, uh, Tonya, that if people, uh, if a child loses their accommodations over time, and that is the need is not being shown any anymore. I’ve heard people being told, oh, he’s not a D H D anymore and we don’t have a 5 0 4 anymore, and I’m going, well, how did he lose the A D H D?

Right diagnosis. You don’t just lose that. So I want to make that clear, because I’ve heard that recently with one of our kids that we’re tutoring. Um, and on top of that, you can leave a, I always say you should leave a 504 open whether it has accommodations or not. And I’ve seen 504 with no accommodations, and we still have to have an annual meeting to check in on that child.

If you close that 504, now you’ve got to start all over again.

Tonya: Right. Now, we had been told that, both my children were on IEPs, but we had been told that same advice, to make sure that we always kept it open, even if they, if they had a year where everything was going well, because it’s easier to keep it going than to start it all over again.

So that’s, that’s good, good advice there. So, um, so Heather, as an IEP specialist, could you describe the students that the IEP would typically be recommended for?

Heather: Sure. Um, really, it all comes down to educational impact. So a child that has ADHD, is medically diagnosed with anxiety, might not require specialized instruction with an IEP, right?

They might need accommodations. But where the fine line goes is where’s the educational impact. And I say that, I didn’t say academic impact. I said educational impact. Educational impact is not just. reading, math, A’s, B’s, C’s. It affects social emotional behavioral as well. So yes, it could be your grades.

And yes, it could be how bad you do on your SATs. But if you have a disability or a struggle that is academically, excuse me, educationally impacting you. So whether that is academic, social, emotional, behavioral. and it requires you to need specially designed instructions, then that is when you would look at an IEP.

So, for instance, if a kid has ADHD, and maybe they’re medicated or not medicated, and maybe they only need some accommodations, but then the workload gets harder, but they’re also struggling to make friends. Maybe it’s impacting them, and they’re behaviorally getting in trouble. Then it’s, hmm. Now their ADHD is getting in the way of them behaviorally, so we need to see is there instruction that needs to be taught to this child in order to move him forward or her forward, right?

Right. So, it could be that. It could be we’re seeing a lot of the anxiety and the invisible disabilities of anxiety, depression, and a lot of kids are masking. They don’t want to show. You know, I don’t want to show that I have this going on and I hear it all the time. Well, they have straight A’s That doesn’t mean that they’re not being impacted by their depression, their anxiety, their learning disability.

So, um, I did want to mention that there is a misconception in the community too that even though you might be medically diagnosed from a pediatrician, from a psychiatrist, with something Autism, ADHD, they cannot diagnose an IEP. So just because you have a medical diagnosis, doesn’t mean you’re just going to take it to the school and poof, here’s your IEP.

The IEP team, and I think we’re going to talk about that a little bit later, um, determines if they meet the criteria under one of the 13 criteria. So intellectual disability, learning disability, autism, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, deaf and hard of hearing, there’s 13. So you have to look, do they meet those criteria, and is there educational impact, and is there a need for a specially designed instruction.

So that’s really what we look at when we’re looking at does a child need an IEP. Um, some of our kids come with a 504 first and they realize that the accommodations just aren’t enough. Just having small group testing or just having extended time isn’t enough. Just having those, you know, check ins with a teacher isn’t enough.

Their executive functioning skills are struggling that they don’t even know how to ask and how to advocate and how to use their time wisely and how to use the headphones and all the things so they have to be taught how to use those skills and that’s the instruction that um, an IEP would, would give you.

Tonya: So we, we’ve mentioned executive functioning skills a couple times now and back in episode 71, if you’re listening and you’re not familiar with what we’re talking about, we had an executive functioning coach on to talk specifically about that. So mark that to go back and listen to, to kind of fill in the blank there.

But I did have a question about that because having, having a child who, who struggled with executive functioning skills, that was always off the table. for us. And so it sounds like the way that both of you are talking that at least where you are in the country that that is being recognized a little bit more.

Can you, and, and we hadn’t talked about this ahead of time, but so many kids do, are, are affected by weak executive functioning skills, especially by the time they get to middle school. Um, so does that fall under 504, under IEP, or maybe a combination?

Heather: So in my terms of when I, executive functioning isn’t going to be an eligibility criteria for special education, but it comes into accommodations that can be given to a child to address those executive functioning deficits.

Or it could be goals and objectives that an IEP provides that are monitored on a consistent basis. You’re teaching the skills on how to. Right. Plan. How to organize. Organize. How to do all the things. Basically how to live your life every day. Because living your life every day is basically executive functioning.

Yes. It is. You make so many decisions in a day. All right.

Helen: Very important skills to have. Executive functioning.

Heather: If your child is diagnosed or, you know, found eligible and they do struggle with executive functioning skills, which most of our kids in special education, they do. They do. They struggle with organization.

Their backpacks look like the dumpster. You know, you can’t find anything. Their lockers, it’s just awful, right? They can’t remember the third thing you said on a list of, of two, you know? So like, they have to be taught how to do those skills. And that’s where, if your child does have an IEP, the special education teacher or the related services providers can support those deficits and teach the skills.

And scaffold it so that you can build on that, right? We’re not going to say, hey, you need to go into middle school and advocate for yourself when the kid’s like, I don’t even like to raise my hand and say the name, right? You have to teach them that it’s okay and create that environment. So it’s really building on the strengths of the child to work on those deficits through objectives and goals in the IEP.

Accommodations that can be provided in the IEP and the 504 has the accommodation side, but not the goals and objectives side, right?

Tonya: So, so if a child is starting to show that the, the weaker skills that they have are causing them not to be able to reach their academic goals that they have, then it might be that an IEP would come into play, not because of the executive functioning skills, but because of the, they’re, they’re dropping back.

They’re not reaching what they need. And then at that point, that’s when a goal could be written to help strengthen those skills. Is that what you’re saying?

Heather: We could be. And they based that on, you know, classroom observations. They look at data on just classroom assessments, anecdotal, observational, you know, kind of things.

Um, and if you do go with eligibility for special education, you’ll typically go with a comprehensive evaluation where a school psychologist is doing formalized testing and executive functioning is typically part of that. Especially if you are a parent that, you know, your child struggles with planning.

And I’m sure that the teachers know it, too. You address that with the team as a concern, and you say, I am concerned about their planning. They cannot plan to save their life. Like, they couldn’t open a box and get out, you know? You, as a parent, knows your child best. So, if you’re seeing things that are happening at home, it’s still important to bring up those concerns to the school and say, I’m concerned about…

The planning. I’m concerned about their attention. I’m concerned about how they’re processing information. I’m concerned about their reading and address that with the team so that when you’re meeting to potentially go for an IEP or they can do the evaluation process, they’re not leaving anything on the table.

They’re addressing your concerns and seeing if there’s any assessments or tools that can support your child that way.

Tonya: Alright, good. I appreciate you answering that, that, that question. It’s something that, that we don’t always talk about, so it, it helps to kind of clarify, and I’m just going to pick both your brains as, as we’re going through this.

The, um, so I want to talk, I want to switch a little bit now and talk about maybe the criteria for each of the plans. So what are some of the factors that are considered when determining eligibility for a 504 plan? So Helen, I’ll have you answer this one.

Helen: Um, so factors, number one, you always have to have a form from a medical professional or a psychologist.

I’ve seen a lot of psychologicals. People do go to psychologists. One thing I think parents need to be aware of, though, with a psychologist is they’re very lengthy, right? Oh, I’ve seen some really lengthy ones. Um, so psychologists will write down a lot of accommodations, okay? And what most school systems are going to say to that is, Again, it goes back to the need being shown in the classroom and if your child is not showing that need, they’re not going to give you that accommodation more than likely because the 504 chair, if they’re good, they’re listening for, okay, I’ll go around the room and say, okay, math is what’s happening in there.

What’s happening in language arts, what’s happening in, in, you know, social studies and all these. So it could be one class. That, that’s happening and, and maybe not the others. It just, sometimes it depends on how the teachers run in the class too. It, it may be a better fit for that child. And then the following year, you’re like, Hey, wait, he did fine in math and now he’s not doing fine in math.

Tonya: Right. Yeah, so, so it may not have had anything to do with math. It may have been the environment for them.

Helen: Yeah,  it could be the environment helping the child. Um, but definitely, uh, psychologists tend to put a lot of things down. And it’s not, That’s typically not going to go on a 504 plan that many things. Okay, so the big Q is a need has to be shown.

Tonya: How how does that compare to the IEP between the two?

Heather: Yeah, there’s honestly, there’s a big difference between the two. Um, because when you’re looking at special education, you are probably already in a tiered process of interventions. So the school system, the teachers have identified that there is an area of concern.

Maybe it is in an academic area, but it could be social emotional. It doesn’t have to be that the school sees that it could be, you could do a direct parent request at that point as well. So there is. A few different options that parents have that if you’re seeing it, but you’re not the school isn’t saying it then you could do a request and we can talk about that a little bit later.

I don’t want to dive all into giving too much information or overwhelming our listeners. Um, but your child is probably already in a tiered process and receiving interventions. So, a math intervention, a reading intervention, a behavioral intervention, a speech intervention. There’s interventions that are being done.

And what that looks like is if the team is meeting and they’re not making progress with that intervention, then the school team is going to say then there might be something else going on here in terms of a disability that we need to explore. So then they’ll bring the parent in, um, and let me back this up to You’ll hear out there in the world, and if you hear as a parent that’s listening to this, that RTI data, that’s what they call it, RTI, Response to Intervention, that the data has to be done before the evaluation process is started.

If you hear, again I’ll repeat this, if you hear that RTI data has to be done before the process of evaluation is started, that’s inaccurate information. RTI intervention data and test at the same time. So, if one likes it, one doesn’t. Yeah. That’s a gold nugget. Um, but you do have to have intervention data to show that they’re, they’re not making progress.

So then, we’re looking at eligibility criteria for the 13 criteria, oh my. 13 eligibility criteria, um, and each one of those 13 has different criteria to be eligible. So for instance, if you are suspecting that a child has a learning disability, that’s going to be different criteria than a child that might have other health impairment that has a diagnosis of other health or, um, of ADHD.

So for instance, if we’re looking at a learning disability. They do have to have a classroom observation. They do have to have a processing disorder. They do have to have underachievement in an academic area. So there’s different criteria. And this is nationwide. So, federally guidelines tell us what the criteria is for each of those 13 criteria.

So, you can go to the, um, and I say Georgia because that’s where I’m sitting right now. That’s where I go. But if you go to the United States Department of Education IDEA. It’ll tell you those 13 categories and what you need in order to, you know, qualify under those. So, it does vary state to state, so please, if you’re listening in a different state, go to your state’s website and it’ll tell you what it looks like.

But, when push comes to shove, again, they’re coming back to, um, educational impact and is there a need for specially designed instruction. So they have to prove those two things in order. to be eligible for special education and then develop the IEP. Okay. You have to be found eligible, and just like, just like IEPs for special education, you have to be found eligible for a 504 plan too.

So you just don’t automatically get it, you have to be found eligible, and then they develop the plan. Just like for special ed, you have to be found eligible for special education, and then you can also, then you can proceed to an IEP.

Tonya: Before I move to the next question, um, just as you’re talking, I’m thinking through our kids that are twice exceptional.

So they’re, they’re in the high academic potential there, but they have a learning block. They may not be remedial students. They may still be scoring that average score. Is that child eligible for an IEP?

Heather: Absolutely. You can be twice exceptional and have an IEP and be gifted.

Helen: Okay. That’s what, yeah, I mentioned that earlier, definitely. I was seeing more of the dual classified when I left the school system three years ago.

Tonya: So that, so that student doesn’t have to have fallen behind their peers.

Heather: No, because remember, it’s not just about academics. It could be sexual emotional behavior. And also, and I don’t mean to interrupt you, but, um, there’s a misconception too in the community that Typically you don’t have a 504 and an IEP at the same time.

So if you have a 504 plan that addresses the medical accommodations, once you are found eligible for special education and develop an IEP, those, that 504 plan basically gets eaten up. into the, the IEP, you know, into those accommodations. Now, they might have a medical plan, but like you said, they have the broken leg or, you know, whatever it looks like.

They might have a medical plan that could be different, but you typically have either a 504, a 504, or an IEP. There’s really no need to have both because they, they mesh together.

Helen: And I will say this, Heather can back me up on this, but I’ve seen, it’s very rare, where if you have an IEP, and now all of a sudden, for some reason, the parent wants to come down to a father in law.

I was going to ask you about that. Um, how easy is it then to get an IEP, Heather? Because I’ve seen, very rarely, but I’ve seen that a couple times in the three years that I was doing the chair position.

Heather: Well, and it can be difficult, but my advice to anybody who’s listening that’s in that position, that if you’re, if you think that your child, Or the school is telling you they’ve mastered all of their goals and they don’t need special education anymore, which Ultimately is right what you want.

You want them to be successful. You don’t want them to have to have all of the supports Before you sign the paperwork to say that they no longer are eligible for special education Please request a comprehensive evaluation to make sure that they’re still not that impact because if you If you just say yes, they’re not eligible anymore And then two weeks down the road, they start to falter and there’s an impact again, then they have to go back through the entire process of, yes, collecting data, but signing consent, and then it’s 60 days for evaluation, and then you have 30 days after that to develop, like, it’s just, don’t, I don’t want to say don’t give it up without, don’t just be quick to give it up, per se.

Make sure that you have evidence and data to back up that that child no longer needs It’s specially designed instruction and there is not an educational impact before you say it.

Helen: It’s easier to close a 504 and then try to reopen one of those versus an IEP.

Tonya: Would you recommend, would you recommend that they, um, that they ask to maybe have the specialized services on consult for a while instead of Direct services, could they do that?

Heather: So that’s typically what I’ve seen when I was a classroom teacher. Um, so a lot of our kids maybe need small group. They need all the intensive instruction. And then we’re like, okay, well they’re making amazing progress. They are learning those advocacy skills. They’re learning those executive functioning skills.

Then we move more to the least restrictive environment or more of a consult model. Like, let me as a case manager special ed teacher just check in. But even still, at that point, I would still want to have the data to say that that child no longer requires it, because it, you, you could think all the amazing things and then things happen and then there’s like, he’s not, he or she might be masking, right?

And then you just don’t know. So prove to me that they don’t need it anymore. Well, I’m thinking too. Yeah.

Helen: Okay. By the fact that it gets harder as they,

Tonya: Well, that’s what I was going to say. You, and you have transition. Maybe they’re doing great in fourth grade, but they’re going to be going on to middle school in another year.

That, they may need that support when they get to the new environment. And as the academic rigor gets more intense with it later too. So, I, I, I was always cautioned to make sure that we kept the IEP going. And so, and I, I thought that was good advice. And there were times with more and less support through the years. with, with both of my kids, but they both graduated with an IEP in place. And, um. Right.

Heather: And it’s, it’s, it’s also yes, elementary IEPs might look different than middle school IEPs and they should look different than high school. So they’re at different levels, right? And it’s not necessarily that services or, or supports are taken away.

We want them to look different. Because a fourth grader is a different person than a sixth grader or a seventh grader. Right? And we want them to be. It’s more independent as possible. So, they might have a bigger safety net in fourth grade than they do going into middle school. It’s not that it’s less than, it’s just different.

Right? Right. We might have to change and have those conversations about how it’s different and not less than. But, excuse me, please, if you’re listening and your school team is saying they don’t need special education anymore, I would highly recommend, before you say yes, that they don’t need it anymore, Ask for the data to prove that they don’t require it anymore. You know, and ask, just ask.

Tonya: Now, when we first started, Helen, you talked about who oversees, um, or administers the, the 504. Did we talk about with the IEP who, who oversees that? We did not. Can you, can you fill that in for us?

Heather: Yes. So at your school level, you’ll have, um, and I’m going to start from kind of like a I don’t want to say bottom, that teachers are on the bottom, but like, just hierarchy of what we are. Yeah. I was a special ed teacher and I’m just like, I don’t want to say that I was on the bottom because I was on the top.

Tonya: The most directly involved to start with.

Heather: Yeah, I like that better. Um, so you have your, your special education teachers. that will have, will be the direct service provider. So that could be a math teacher, a language arts teacher.

You also could have your related services providers, which are your occupational therapy, your physical therapy, your speech and language. It could be your adaptive PE coach, um, lots of different related service providers. So they are responsible for implementing the IEP with the services that are in the IEP for their specific skillsets.

So math goals are for the math teacher. Speech and language might Combined with like a language or reading, you know, they have their own speech and language goals, but they might also be supporting in a classroom goal. Um, excuse me, occupational therapy, the same thing. They are probably supporting a writing goal or supporting sensory.

So they’re the people that are having the most direct support and are responsible for implementing the IEP, collecting data on the goals and objectives that are in that IEP, ensuring that the accommodations are being implemented with fidelity. Right above that, and I say, they have the same amount of support, but every special ed student will have a case manager that is assigned to them, so that is the person that is typically responsible for developing the IEP, making sure that the IEP meeting is scheduled, following up with the teachers, um, again, making sure that the accommodation plans are given to the teachers and the IEPs, and typically it is a teacher that the child has during the day.

It doesn’t have to be, there’s no law that says that your case manager has to be your, your language arts teacher, but it, it’s helpful when it is, because then you have direct contact with a student. So you have your, your special education teachers, you have a case manager for every special education child, um, and then you have maybe a department chair or a facilitator or a Um, head special ed person in the school, in the school itself.

So, um, in the district that I came to, we called them instructional support teachers. Um, they didn’t have instruction roles, like they weren’t teaching a class. They were there truly to manage and make sure compliance with IEPs and help teachers implement whatever the IEPs were. Um, you might have a facilitator, the same kind of things in other districts.

And then you have your district. Um, like coordinators and, um, program specialists and then you have your director of special ed and all the people that are not physically in the school system, um, in the school. So the teachers are responsible for implementing it. You have your school psychologists that are there too.

Um, a lot of our districts around here have psychologists that work maybe with a couple different districts or different, um, school teams. They’re part of the IEP team as well, so they might be there to support, um, So everybody is kind of responsible for the IEP, but it’s the teachers and the, the case manager that are the, the meat and potatoes of making sure that that document is being followed and the data is collected on those goals and objectives.

Tonya:  As we’re talking about who’s there, what role does the parent have in both of the plans? So Helen, do you want to start with the 504, with the role the parent has?

Helen: Um, well, they should definitely keep an eye on the fact that they have an annual meeting every year. Uh, maybe mark it in their calendar because even though the 504 chair hasn’t come up, Um, they, they may, you know, there’s changes and a lot of changes going on these days, right?

So that could slip through the cracks and really they like to tend to do it as it comes up. Like I, I try to do it within a couple weeks of the actual last year’s date. So, but that doesn’t mean that you as a parent can’t ask for it sooner. Just like one of my parents just did. She already did it on the second day.

And that was mainly to just kind of be proactive. And I’ve had a couple parents call me immediately and I’m like, well, am I doing meetings for a couple weeks? Um, let, let the teachers get to know your child first before they can really come in and say something about what the need is shown. So there’s a little bit of, you know, do you really want to come in too early and call for a 504 meeting or not?

If you’re seeing something serious that you know has changed and you got a different diagnosis over the summer, yes, you need to let that 504 chair know that. Once you’ve let her know, usually within a couple weeks, I’ve called a meeting to go ahead and add in that accommodation, um, instead of waiting two months.

You know, you don’t want to wait two months because there’s a lot of testing that goes on early on these days with iReady or… Gosh, people are doing map testing in the fall now, and even more so because of COVID, I think. Um, but I wanted to bring up the social worker. You should work, you know, the social worker is a good person in the building as well.

I’ve worked a lot with the social worker, and the parents get involved with her too, if need be. He, she. Um, but definitely the parents need to watch out for those dates. And you get a copy of your 504 when you leave there. Whether they’re emailing these days or handing it to them, I don’t know, but I can just tell you for sure you need to keep on top of that, mark it in your calendar, and be aware of when that date’s coming up.

Tonya: So Heather, what’s the role of the parent with the IEP?

Heather: Well, I think, um, besides the child as being the first important person in the IEP meeting, the parent’s the second. Um, you as a parent, You are the only consistent person that knows your child from beginning until end. So you are an equal member of that IEP team and you should have meaningful input at that table.

So you are that consistent, always going to be there. The gen ed teachers are going to change, the special ed teachers are going to change, the school cycle, everybody’s going to change, right? The only person that is there that’s going to be consistent is you as a parent. So your role at that table is.

It’s vital, right? You know the ins and outs of your child from birth until however old they are, right? Like, you know the ins and outs. Yes, teachers spend a lot of time with children during the day, but we don’t know them when they get home, right? You have an important role in being able to share the good, the bad, the ugly, what it actually looks like for your child.

So to me, You are one of the most important people to share information at that table about your child and your rights say that you are an equal member of the team, so you should also have the same information that the team does. You shouldn’t come to the meeting and be blindsided by an evaluation that was done that you didn’t know about or the district coordinator coming to a meeting and you’re like, why are they coming to the meeting?

Or, hey, we did this, but we didn’t know about it. You have that right. to have all of that information as you should. Again, you are an equal member of the IEP team and there should not be surprises at the table. You have the right to have all that information.

Tonya: So, I was thinking about this too. We, um, I spoke with, um, Dr. Kirk Adams and he suggested that, um, children with disabilities start taking a role in their future early on. And, and he talked about the IEP, and he said, you know, even, even as a young child, he would recommend that parents pull the child out of class to be in the meeting if it’s during the school day. Do you agree with that?

Heather: I 100 percent agree with that. Um, it’s harder for elementary kids to be able to share a lot of things, but they, keep in mind, this IEP is for them. Right. Right? So, I sat in a 504 meeting with a young lady. Well, young man and her family today, she sat in that meeting with us and she advocated for herself and it was the most amazing thing and the team was so excited that she was actually advocating for herself and had the most, like to me, when you hear a child say, I need this to be successful or I need that to be successful, or this is something that I struggle with.

That is so impactful. A mom and a dad or a grandpan or a guardian can say that until they’re blue in the face. But if you’re hearing it from a child or a young man or young adult, it is just so much more impactful. I need this to be successful. And, you know, people say, well, we can’t get our kids that maybe are nonverbal to participate.

Yes, you can. You can teach them, like I’ve had plenty of kids that I helped develop like a little PowerPoint slide that they shared about their personal information, like what they were excited about, what their favorite colors were, what their favorite activities were, maybe what their favorite reward was, like maybe like love Pokemon or something, you know, like get them as involved as you can, you know, maybe they’re not going to be, you know, talking like we are today and going on and on and on forever and ever, but get them involved.

And. It is special education and having an IEP is not a negative thing, you know, I say this a lot of times when I was in school, I feel like, and even when my parents were, you know, in school, special education was thought of as like, no offense, but the redheaded stepchild, right? Like you, you didn’t see kids with disabilities.

You didn’t, you didn’t know about it. It was kind of like, don’t, it’s this bad thing we got to hide. It’s not like that anymore. You know, your child does have unique needs and does maybe learn amazingly different, but we need to make sure that we’re tailoring that and really embracing those differences.

Because while they do have weaknesses, they have a ton of strengths that we need to focus on. And for them to come into a meeting and say, I need this, or I like this, or don’t you dare tell me and poke me on the shoulder, because that’s going to trigger me to, like, whack you. Right, right. So, like, I absolutely 100 percent agree with him that as early as you can, get them involved in their IEP meetings and teach them how to advocate for themselves.

And… Be an active role in their IEP and let’s, let’s get them invested in their plan instead of the adults doing it for you, you know, right? And I’d say the same.

Helen: I say the same for 504s. I used to pull the middle school students out of their classes or a lot of times parents would bring them in. So that’s another thing parents should do is just kind of talk to them.

Hey, I’m coming into the school today for a 504 meeting. It’s your 504 meeting. And. I’m all I’m all at the chair call you down when I’m ready for you So a lot of times we would call them down unless they’re gonna miss a test or something like that. I won’t I won’t do it Right. Yeah, definitely definitely high schoolers for sure.

Heather: Well, and they have high schoolers because you get a transition plan when you get to high school as part of your IEP and they want You to be involved But I do have a suggestion for you know families that might be listening to this and they say my child is shy But they don’t like to speak up and you know because I was that kid You probably never know it now, but I was.

I didn’t want to speak up in front of adults. I could speak to kids all day long, but you put me in front of my peers and I’m like, like just clam up. Um, they might be able to come to the meeting, but I suggest to them either dictate or write down like on a post it card, like a, you know, a little post it note, just some notes so that they don’t have to speak on the web.

They can read off of their card and say, this is what I did. So it just gives them another tool that maybe they’re shy, but they can just keep their head down. They don’t even have to look at the people in the room, but they still are there participating. Um, I also know it’s hard for some of our kids to hear the entire length of an IEP because we do have to talk about their deficits and the areas that they struggle with.

And a lot of our kids don’t want to hear that. And sometimes we just don’t need them to hear all of them, that stuff. I like to involve them as much as they can tolerate it, but I also want to see, let them share, hear the positives, give their input, and then you can dismiss them back to class. So even, they don’t have to be there for the duration of the meeting.

Some of those meetings can be, you know, two hours long. But, if they can come in and they can open up with their little PowerPoint slide, or their little note card that they brought in, and then they can just be dismissed. That’s a stepping stone for them to be there the entire time, eventually, down the road.

Helen: And a 5 that’s easier because it’s usually no more than 30 minutes. Okay. Unless it’s going to involve a bunch of people from the county and then that could go on for about an hour.

Tonya: Well, having, having two students in college right now, parents that are listening, no matter how young your child is, the sooner as, as Heather and Helena both said, the sooner you can get them involved in some way, shape or form, the earlier they’re going to learn.

That it’s okay to speak up for themselves, and they’re going to start hearing some of the words that they’re going to need to be able to use later to explain what works for them or what maybe doesn’t work for them. By the time they’re in college, they’re going to have to do all this themselves. And you can still help them, but they have to lead it by then.

And eventually, our goal is that these kids will graduate. High school, graduate college, whatever their educational path will be, and they’ll have a job of some sort. In that environment, they’re going to have to be able to know that, you know, I need to be able to take a break every so often, or I need to have, um, some, some way of muting the sound or something.

And if, if we can teach them when they’re younger during this time and to see other adults talking about it, it becomes matter of fact and just part of who you are and not a big deal whenever to that, to that point.

Heather: You’re right, and it also allows them to know what they can ask for. You know, what accommodations they do have that they’re allowed to ask their teachers for.

They shouldn’t always have to ask for it, right? But, if they know that I’m allowed to wear my headphones when it’s in, like, independent work, or I know that I’m allowed to ask for a break, then they know that ahead of time. There were so many kids, even when I was teaching, that I would say, well, do you know what your accommodations are?

And they’re like, what are you talking about? Like they had no idea. Or they would say this, right? Why are you pulling me for small group testing? And I was like, well, because you’re allowed to have that, you know, in your IEP and they just had no idea. So when they’re informed, then they can ask and say, Hey, I was supposed to have small group testing.

You know, because we make mistakes, teachers do make mistakes, there are things that, you know, if they’re supposed to have color overlays, we’re human, we might forget, so please give us some grace on that, but if a child knows that they’re supposed to have color overlays, then they might say, hey, that’s right, do you have the blue sheet that I could have?

Absolutely, so it helps them be better advocates for themselves.

Tonya: And I think it becomes more of, these are just tools that I’m using, and not a stigma against who they are. Because they’ve heard adults talk about it. They’ve heard it. It’s not this big emotional thing. This is just a little business meeting that we’re having to talk through it.

And think of the skills that our kids are learning sitting in that business meeting. They’re learning to work with a team. They’re learning to be part of a team of adults that are there. They’re the focus of what they’re talking about, but they are gaining skills just through that process.

Heather: Right. Yeah. 100%. Get them involved as early as possible at whatever that looks like for them. You know, a kindergartner is going to look different than a True. True.

Tonya: Your kindergartner may be coloring at the table instead.

Helen: And the teachers are happy when the kids are. Right. The kids being in the know, as a teacher, I’d be happy if they, like, reminded me about something.

Because if they have like 14504s in a classroom or in all their classes, it really is kind of hard to keep up with all of that. So if you don’t give somebody the extended time, you know, they’ll come up and they’ll remind you, Hey, you know, I need a little bit of extra time.

Tonya: Yeah. So. I’m thinking through here. I know we’ve been talking for a long time and I appreciate our listeners staying with us. But I think this is just it’s information I would love to have had when my kids were younger. I learned a lot of this through the years and asking a lot of questions. But I love the fact that we have both of you here to just kind of help balance this back and forth between the two.

The, we’ve, we’ve answered some of the questions that I had for you already just in our talk, which I think is good. But as we’re coming near the end here, um, I want to give you each a chance to give some final thoughts and advice that you might want to pass on, any little nuggets of truth that you want to, to, to give to our parents. And, um, Helen, I’ll let you start and then we’ll go to Heather.

Helen: Um, so I would say definitely if you see an issue going on and I think what a lot of people do, a lot of parents do, is kind of wait it out to see if things are going to get better. Um, I, I can understand that, especially if it’s a young child that you think and are hoping things are going to get better, but I wouldn’t let that ride too long.

Um, I would start talking to your pediatrician and kind of cluing them in at first. Um, always stay in touch with your teachers. Um, I don’t care if you have an IEP 504 or not. Um, especially if you know your child is having a writing issue, let’s say. Um, it’s best to go ahead and let them know ahead, so they’re clued in and they’re looking for it, right?

And then they can tell you, Hey, I noticed, I mean, I would get emails from teachers going, So and so, I’m noticing this about so and so. I talked to the mom. They might be contacting you as a 504 chair because I think they’re, you know, teachers are never going to say your child has ADHD or your child has this because they’re not medical doctors.

They’re not going to diagnose it as a company. I tend to say a little bit more because I always preface that by saying I’ve seen a lot and I’m suspicious that this might be going on and this is what you need to start doing because we’ll get involved with the teacher also on email. To keep abreast of what’s going on in the classroom, so I believe it takes a village, so it’s the parent, the tutor, and, uh, the teacher.

So then they are comfortable now with us and they’ll say something to us too, because they know we’re educators. So, I’d say jump, uh, you know, stay on top of it, be proactive, not reactive. Nice.

Tonya: Heather, you want to add to that?

Heather: Sure. So, you know, you earlier said that I was a master IEP coach and, and I am, and, um, you know, most people are like, well, what does that do?

What do you do? And again, I don’t like to call myself an advocate because     comes with this adversarial kind of negative connotation and I, I come from a place of collaboration. But I also want to tell families, like, you know your child best, and I said that earlier, you are the most consistent person that’s going to be at that IEC table.

If you, if you feel like you have your intuition that something’s not right, please speak up. Please ask those questions. You aren’t alone. There are people out there like myself that can support you and help you get through, maybe decipher what does that, that gut feeling, that little like. Um, I’m not sure.

What does that look like? Feeling there are people out there. I also get asked a lot, when is a good time to reach out to somebody like myself? And I, I tell you, never, it’s never a bad time to, to reach out to somebody like myself. Like you don’t have to wait until you’re so angry that you’re, that you’re seeing red all the time.

It could be when you’re just like, things are going great, but I just wanna make sure, is there something else I could be doing differently or, Are we on the right track here? Because keep in mind that an IEP supports future education, employment, and independent living. So we need to make sure that we’re addressing all of those skills to get to a point, because eventually they’re not going to be in high school anymore, right?

So we need to make sure that we’re developing those skills, but you don’t have to wait to reach out to somebody like myself. Wait, don’t wait until it gets to be so bad that you’re you’re so frustrated with the team. Yes, please do it if you are there, but it also can be that you are. I work with families that are brand new to special education.

Like my youngest family right now is a 4 year old family. They’re getting into special education. Early on, and my eldest, um, is an 11th grader, so like I work the gamut, um, of, of needs, but it’s never too late, never too early to ask for support on, um, Interpreting what an IEP is and what special education is because, Tonya, you know this as a parent of children that went through the process, there’s just so much, like, acronyms out the wazoo, like, you don’t know what you’re saying. Right?

Helen: And it confuses teachers, too. Yes.

Tonya: And it keeps changing.

Heather: Exactly, like RTI is this today and it’s that something different, you know, tomorrow, but I’m almost like an interpreter that I can look at something and interpret it into like language that a parent can understand. So please reach out. There is support out there.

Don’t wait until you’re so frustrated to get support, you know, please ask for help as much as you can. But again, you as the parent knows your child best and if you feel like you need some help. Ask. Ask your team. Communicate, just like Helen said. Communicate with your team. Um, there are people there to listen.

Helen: And  speak with other parents, too, because there’s a lot of parent groups, and that’ll kind of clue parents into what’s happening, because they’ve already experienced it, like yourself, Tonya, right? Right. Um, so, yeah, I would definitely say, another thing I want to add is, um, I love school systems and I love teachers and I’m not blaming them at all for what’s happening here, but they are not trained, um, to know all this.

So, you know, be aware of that and know even the counselors, they’re probably a little more trained, but don’t take everything you hear at the school to heart. Like, you don’t think there’s nothing more. That’s when you reach out to Heather and myself and ask more questions, like she said. Right.

Tonya: The, um. Some of our parents may have questions for you with us.

What’s the best way to get in touch, in touch with you? Helen, I’m going to let you go first because I want you to talk about, about the company and then, um, Share any, any contacts for links or anything like that and anything that they share, listeners, I’m going to put it in the show notes and in the description.

So you’ll be able to find it, um, but go and tell us that first and then Heather add to that anything else that, that, that’s still missing at that point. Cause, cause I know you both have some things together and some, something separate.

Helen: Yeah. Um, so, uh, they can reach me through going to my website and I have a contact us page there and they can fill it out right there and say what they’re wondering about, but it’s It’s info at I nfo at the company name Dynamis Learning.

I still have in there, even though I’ve changed it to Dynamis learning, uh, and drop the academy. But the U R L is still that way. Okay. So it’s or you can go to the website and go to contact us and fill it out there. It’s gonna come to that same email. Um, okay, so I, I just wanna let you know I will jump into any 5 0 4 meetings and I’ve done that.

Um, and as we’re tutoring kids, if I see that I believe that’s the need being shown, I will nicely nudge people to go that way. Or I’ll contact Heather, because I think I might have sent her the four year old.

I didn’t even know myself a four-year-old could have an IEP.

Tonya: Alright, so Heather, what is your contact information?

Heather: Yeah, so if you have questions about, you know, 504 plans or IEPs, um, please visit my website, HeatherWrightConsultant. com, so, um, my first and last name, it is W R I G H T Consultant dot com. And on there, there are some free resources that you can download that I have available for you.

You just need to enter your email address. You can also schedule, um, a 30 minute free phone consultation with me, and I suggest that to all families. Reach out to me. There is no obligation. I would not be able to sell a ladder to a fireman if there was a fire, so I’m not going to force you into doing anything with me.

But, why not reach out and say, hey, can you support this or support, you know, I’m having trouble with this in the school system. Reach out to me on my website. Like I said, Heather Wright consultant. com. Um, Helen and I are going to be doing a collaborative webinar, probably October. I think we’re, we were planning September, but I think we’re going to have to push it to October.

Um, really diving in a little bit more deep into it. IEP is in 504. So if you want to get on that list to make sure that you get the no, either reach out to Helen or you can reach out to me on my website again. Um, and I will be doing some free parent trainings in the next. Probably a couple months. I haven’t set the exact dates yet, but if you’re looking for maybe how to communicate better with your, your school team or how do I write a parent input statement?

And I know we didn’t talk about that, but if you need more information about that, you know, reach out to me so you can get on my list for those free parent trainings. And if you want on the one for Helen and I. . Um, again, reach out to her at or you can reach out again, Heather Wright

And I am on Instagram and Facebook at Heather Wright consult. So you can follow me there too.

Tonya: Okay. All right. So we’ll have just a list of all these contacts so you, you can go down and find them one way or another and, and if you’re on Instagram or Facebook, go ahead and, and follow them so that you can keep, keep up with what they’re, what they’re feeding back through that too, the.

Um, so you mentioned the, the training. What other projects do you have going on right now? I know you’re doing a lot of IEP and 504 meetings, I’m sure, but, but what else is going on?

Helen: I also have an advocacy brochure, and I have, if I haven’t given you that link, Tonya, I’ll provide that for you. Oh yeah, please do.

So they can just download that and, and get that, because that explains some things in terms of how that, what, what it is, how does that work.

Tonya: And then, um, Helen, tell us about your podcast. She’s, she’s another podcaster, so I want you to hear about what she’s doing there.

Helen: Oh, yes. The podcast is called Smart Parents Successful Students Podcast, and it’s on Spotify and other areas.

So, I usually have guests on there. Sometimes I’m even interviewing my own tutors or myself. Uh, and we talk about all kinds of topics, from SAT, ACT prep, to tutoring, to 504s, to IEPs, to… Helping parents out with self care even than moms. I’m rolling out my 95th Season right now. So the next one will be five more and i’ll hit i’m gonna have a party at 100 episode.

Wow You know, hopefully be a part of those last five right there hitting the hundred There’s already been a guest so we’ll have a party.

Heather: I wanted to thank tonya for having me on today and helen for seeing you I love always seeing your face, but thank you Helen and Tonya today.

Helen: Yes. Thank you, Tonya. Appreciate it. All right.

Tonya: Thank you. I appreciate you both being here and sharing your expertise on the 504 plans and the IEPs. It’s been incredibly informative and I think our families will really get a lot out of this. So thank you both.

Tonya Wollum


Tonya Wollum is a disability advocate and host of the Water Prairie Chronicles podcast which connects special needs parents with resources to help them navigate parenting a child with a disability. She is the mother of 2 college-age children who have each grown up with a disability. That experience, along with a background in education, led her to create the Water Prairie Chronicles to help share what she has learned with parents of younger children to help them know how to advocate for their children.

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