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General Tips & Strategies

The chart below provides a starting place for your school team when you want to provide additional educational support for a child who needs help, even if there has been no medical or genetic diagnosis. It is not an exhaustive list, and is not intended to be a diagnostic tool.  Rather, we offer this chart as a guide to spark ideas! Highlights of the chart include:

  • “General Guiding Principles” (see big yellow box on the chart, and bullet below) encourage high expectations and positive assumptions. 
  • Topic areas (small yellow boxes) address classroom challenges and lead to strategies and suggestions (blue boxes). 
  • Look for a comparison of IFSP, IEP and 504 Plans. This may be helpful when discussing which plan is best for a particular student. 
the web chart can be seen in the pdf linked below view chart in the pdf linked below

This chart can be downloaded HERE as a PDF. Here is the same information from the chart in a list format:

General Guiding Principles
  • Learn about specific conditions- knowledge is power!
  • Attend to the child's need to belong socially in classroom and be a full participant and contributor in classroom
  • Make positive assumptions
  • Assume competence
  • Have high expectations
  • Possible accommodations categories
    • Presentation of information
    • Timing
    • Setting
    • Worksheet testing
    • Behavior
    • Seating arrangement
    • Be sensitive about disclosing information in front of classmates that might make the student stand out
    • Consider incorporating transition plans wherever needed
    • Response
    • Test scheduling
    • Classroom assignment
    • Organization
    • Volume of work
Child fatigues easily

Support typical routines as much as possible.

Students learn the typical curriculum but, if necessary, consider:

  • Organizational supports
  • Shorter assignments - focus on key ideas
  • Expand curriculum
  • Allow student to have reduced material load
  • Access to materials in alternative modes
  • Change in setting
  • Provide encouragement
  • Extended time in testing
  • Use of assistive devices, such as calculator, voice output computer
  • Get copies of notes
  • Extra time between classrooms
  • Shortened day
Child has dietary or medical needs
  • Support typical when possible/if needed
  • Allow snacks/food in class
  • Check on snacks brought in
  • Allowed to go to office
  • Determine who is allowed to administer medications - what training do they need?
  • Determine where locked medications are stored
  • Needs water bottle
  • Bathroom break
  • Involve school nurse
Child has increased absences due to illness

Support participation in regular curriculum as much as possible. When necessary:

  • Allow video/skyping
  • Change in workload
  • Get copies of notes
  • Peer tutoring
  • Second set of books at home
  • Substitute alternatives for assignments
  • Home tutor
Child needs behavioral supports
  • Seek a Functional Behavioral Assessment - identify triggers, new skills to teach and adult response
  • Does the child have an effective way to communicate?
  • Does the school have a school-wide positive supports effort?
Child needs sensory supports/supports for pain
  • Incorporate sensory supports in classroom (i.e. rocking chair for reading)
  • Have a signal for when student needs to leave for home or nurse
  • Assignments/testing may need adjusting
  • Consult OT, nurse, teachers, PT
  • Consider self-monitoring & calming technique (i.e. Alert Program)
Child's condition declines/changes
  • Frequent screens for vision/hearing changes in child
  • Watch for new/different learning needs
  • Watch for changes at transitions, procedures, puberty, etc.
  • Consider additional accommodations if condition declines
  • Read on specific conditions/syndrome to be aware of possible changes due to decline
  • Consider change in seating
  • What accommodations for sensory, physical, and communication needs are necessary?
  • What assistance do they need to be successful?
Child will attend special trips/functions

What supports does student need to make event successful?

  • Supervision
  • Role of volunteers
  • Transportation
  • Medicine
  • Accessibility
  • Temperature regulation
  • Bathroom facilities
  • Snacks, food
  • Peer support
Child needs specialilzed educational support services (IFSP, IEP, 504 Plan)

Individualized Family Service Plan

If a child is under age 3* and is found eligible for an early supports and services or early intervention program (names vary depending on the state), an IFSP or Individualized Family Service Plan is developed. This plan is created around the family’s concerns, priorities and resources, not just the child’s, and builds on family strengths. It is a process designed to facilitate the child’s development and serve as a roadmap for the early intervention system.

*Some states continue IFSPs after age 3.

For more information:

IFSP’s in your state:

General IFSP information:

IEP and 504 Plans

Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) and 504 plans are written for children ages 3-21 who are either in special education programs (IEP) or are in need of extra supports for challenges they have (504 Plan). There are some similarities between the two plans:

Both 504 and IEP Plans:

  • Include accommodations and modifications
  • Can provide related services such as OT, PT, and speech
  • Allow the student to keep the same placement and stay in regular classroom
  • Include safeguards
    • Parental notices of evaluation or placement
    • Parental review of records
    • Impartial hearing for appeal
  • Include possible accommodations categories such as:
    • Presentation of information
    • Response
    • Behavior
    • Timing
    • Test scheduling
    • Organization
    • Setting
    • Classroom assignment
    • Volume of work
    • Worksheet testing
    • Seating arrangement
    • Be sensitive about disclosing information in front of classmate that might make the student stand out 

There are also differences between the IEP and 504 plan.

The IEP:

  • Is for children who have a disability and need accommodations, modifications, related and special education services to allow the child to be successful in school
  • Is written when the disability interferes with the student's education and performance
  • Includes safeguards which include:
    • Written prior notice of all evaluations, changes to IEP and placement
    • Right to independent evaluations at public schools especially
    • Arbitration or mediation w/disagreement or administrative complaint process
  • Allows for direct/indirect services w/student or consultations services between special education teacher and classroom teacher

The 504 Plan:

  • Is for children who have physical or emotional disabilities, are recovering from chemical dependency, or have an impairment that restricts 1 or more major life activities
  • Is for children who have a condition that impacts major life activities including caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, vision, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, writing, and learning difficulties

For more information on IEPs:

For more information on 504 plans:

Child may need emergency plan
  • Work with child's medical home and family to develop a school plan for emergency
  • Obtain copy of medical home's care plan/emergency plan
  • What training for staff is needed
  • Who needs to know the plan
  • Any supports for fie drills and evacuations?
  • Medical management plan
  • Medical equipment must go with student
  • Involve school nurse in developing plan
  • You may want additional information about your child’s disability, early intervention, school services, therapy, local policies, transportation, and much more. Every state in the USA has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to offer families just this kind of information. To find your state’s center, go to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.