School is just around the corner, and its time to prepare to advocate for your special needs child. Two primary laws protect students in school who have a disability – IDEA, the special education law, and section 504, which is part of the larger federal civil rights law. Both require, among other things, that all public schools and many private schools provide reasonable accomodations to a student with a disability if that accommodation is needed for the student to “access” the academic program.
A student who gets all or mostly “A” grades is sometimes considered to be ineligible for accomodations because they are doing fine, or so the thinking goes.
High grades may be an indicator that the student does not need any accomodations, but it is not the end of the inquiry. For example, a student in a wheelchair who gets all “A’s” but can’t take some the classes she wants to take because they are on a second floor of a building with no elevator would clearly be intitled to some sort of accomodation so that she can take the classes she wants to take. That example is pretty easy to see.
But the same logic applies to other, less immediately obvious, situations. For example, a student who gets all “A’s” but is unable to participate in school clubs and activities because of a diagnosed disorder that impairs her ability to engage in social interactions may be entitled to reasonable accomodations such as an assigned “mentor” or specialized assistance that enables him to engage with the group. Another student with a chronic health condition may need a reduced workload or a shortened school day to attend medical treatments or accommodate limited stamina. And yet another student with a mental disorder may need assignments given to her in advance to accomodate periods of time when she is unable to concentrate sufficiently to complete her work.
Student grades are only one of many factors that should be looked at when assessing whether a student needs a reasonable accomodation at school. So if you have an A student with a disability who is struggling for one reason or another, do not hesitate to go to the school and ask for an evaluation and assessment.