Definition of Terms

Accommodations: Changes in the way performance is measured that does not substantially alter the material a child is expected to learn.

Confidential File File maintained by the school that contains evaluations conducted to determine whether or not a child has a disability; parents have the right to inspect the file and have copies of any information contained in it.

Cumulative File General file maintained by the school; parents have the right to inspect the file and have copies of any information contained in it.

IEP: An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) describes the educational program that has been designed to meet that child's unique needs. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.

Modifications: Substantial changes in what the student is expected to demonstrate; includes changes in instructional level, content, and performance criteria.

Remediation: Process by which and individual receives instruction and practice in skills that are weak or nonexistent in an effort to develop those skills.

Section 504: Students with 504 plans are students with disabilities who may require accommodations in the classroom or related services such as physical therapy. They do not require the same degree of special education services as envisioned under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Sometimes, despite classroom interventions, accommodations, and the support of remedial programs, students continue to struggle in school. At that point, a school may recommend special education services.  If your child has been recommended for special education services, you will best be able to help plan the most effective program for your child if you educate yourself about your child's disability and the special education process. With the correct mix of accommodations, modifications, and remediation students with learning disabilities are capable of succeeding in academic settings through college, and in life.


If your child is referred for special education services, the first step to getting those service is a comprehensive assessment that will include information as to your child's cognitive abilities as well as his or her academic achievement levels. In Georgia, there must be a 20-point discrepancy between a child's cognitive ability (IQ) and his or her academic achievement in order to qualify for special education as a student with learning disabilities.

After the assessment is completed, you will be invited to a meeting at your child's school to review the assessment results and determine if your child is eligible for services. This will probably be a large meeting and include many school personnel such as your child's teacher, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, and other school representatives. These meetings can be very overwhelming as you will be presented with a great deal of information in a short time. Many parents prefer to bring a spouse or close friend to the meeting to ensure that their memory of the meeting is accurate. It is your right to disagree with any part of the assessment, and to put your reasons for disagreeing in writing. It is also your right to take any paperwork home to review at your leisure before signing it.

IEP Meeting:

Once your child is determined eligible for services, an individualized education plan (IEP) must be written for him or her prior to the start of services. Often, the school will want to write this plan immediately following the eligibility meeting. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or are not comfortable signing the eligibility paperwork without taking time to review it further, it is your right to request that the meeting be rescheduled for a later date. The school will not like this request, as the entire team will need to be reassembled, but it is your right. If you do feel the need to postpone the IEP portion of a meeting, please be sure to bring a spouse or friend to your next meeting.

An IEP has several mandatory components, including a description of your child's disability, a statement regarding your child's present level of performance, long-term goals and short-term objectives that are based upon your child's present level of performance, a description of accommodations and modifications that your child needs in order to be successful in the least restrictive environment, any summer programs your child requires in order to maintain skills, and the type of placement your child needs in order to make progress towards the goals and objectives described in the IEP. As you are considered a vital member of the IEP team, your comments regarding your child's program are also required in IEPs written in Fulton County.

As with the eligibility, it is your right to take the paperwork home to review it in a more comfortable environment prior to signing it. It is also your right to add parent comments that describe any concerns you have about the IEP as well as any services you are providing for your child, such as private tutoring.

Finally, IEPs must be reviewed and updated at least once each year, but it is your right to request a meeting to amend the IEP at any time, should you wish to do so.

For More Information:

To learn about your child's disability, you can consult LDOnLine, the leading Web site on learning disabilities for parents, teachers, and other professionals or SchwabLearning, which offers a parent's guide to learning differences.

Your rights as the parent of a child with special needs are explained clearly at Wrightslaw. This site also provides accurate, up-to-date information about advocacy for children with disabilities.


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