My oldest son, Bob, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD. In two weeks, I will meet with his school to facilitate a Section 504 plan, as recommended by the school counselor.
As I investigate various accommodations available under education and disability law, I’m not sure two weeks is enough time for me to prepare.
According to the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation (“JBRF”), there are two federal statutes Bob’s situation falls under–Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (reauth. 1997) (“IDEA”). Purportedly, IDEA allows for greater access to resources both in and outside the classroom through the implementation of an Individualized Education Plan (the IEP with which many of us are at least familiar).
I admit, I’m having trouble understanding the difference. I’m also having trouble understanding why it’s my responsibility to educate the educators as to my child’s impairment and how best to accommodate him. I know I’ve beaten this horse before, but Bob is neither the first nor only child to carry this burden–shouldn’t educators have a greater awareness of psychiatric illness and its effects on the classroom?
JBRF recommends I attend this meeting armed with every possible bit of information I can print about Bob’s diagnoses (in layman’s terms, of course) to present to the IEP coordinator. I’m supposed to rehearse the meeting beforehand, and possibly enlist others to attend on Bob’s behalf–i.e., his psychiatrist or an attorney.
Gee–nothing daunting about those recommendations.
At this point, I don’t think I need to call in reinforcements (certainly not at upwards of $200 per hour). I do, however, plan to spend more time reviewing the legislation and how it corresponds to what I think Bob’s specific needs are. Thankfully, Demitri Papolos, MD and Janice Papolos* drafted a sample IEP geared toward children with bipolar disorder, with which I will be familiarizing myself, as well.
Will my own knowledge be enough? The school’s IEP/504 coordinator is the school counselor, who I have known to be less than knowledgeable about Bob’s illness (or anyone else’s, for that matter). Will my arsenal of factoids and propaganda be sufficient to get Bob what he needs to be successful in school–now, and as he moves on to middle and high school?
I don’t know. It may eventually come down to calling in reinforcements, as the JBRF recommends. I hope not.
And I hope they know I’m willing to “go there” if I have to.
*Regardless of one’s opinion of the highly controversial Papoloses, I think we can all agree–as parents, we can use every bit of help we can get.