As a specific learning disability that affects reading and writing, dyslexia can have a significant impact on a student's ability to learn and succeed in the classroom.
Fortunately, students with dyslexia are entitled to receive accommodations and services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students with dyslexia are also entitled to direct remediation services if they qualify for an IEP.
It is important for parents of children with reading issues or a reading disability to understand how accommodations can help their child. Whether your child has or needs a 504 plan or special education services through an IEP, they are entitled to accommodations if their disability substantially impacts them.
There is a lot a parent can do to support their dyslexic child but working with their school to get the right accommodations in place can give your child the right assistance they need to be successful.
In this blog you will learn about:
What a 504 plan is?
How a 504 applies to dyslexic students
What accommodations and services may be included in a 504 plan to help students with dyslexia.
How Dyslexia Affects Students in the Classroom
Dyslexia is a highly genetic, neurological condition that affects a student's ability to process the smallest sounds of language, phonemes. It impacts one’s ability to both encode and decode, as well as process and comprehend written language. This can impact a student's performance across all content areas, including reading, writing, and even math.
Students with dyslexia are frequently misdiagnosed with ADHD due to issues with executive functioning. These issues impact their learning in a multitude of ways but when a dyslexic brain also has issues with executive functioning then task completion and “brain overload” are common.
Dyslexic students struggle with decoding words, recognizing common sight words, and understanding complex sentences. This can make it difficult for them to keep up with grade level texts and complete written assignments. In addition, dyslexia often impacts a student's ability to express their thoughts and ideas in writing, which can be frustrating and discouraging.
Your child may need services and accommodations to support their dyslexia.
What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Under Section 504, individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal access to programs and activities, including education.
This means that schools are required to provide accommodations and services to ensure that students with disabilities have the same opportunities to succeed as their non-disabled peers. A 504 Plan is all about leveling the playing field so that students with Dyslexia can demonstrate their capabilities.
What is an Accommodation?
An accommodation is a change or adjustment to a policy, practice, or environment that enables an individual with a disability to participate in an activity or program. They can vary greatly from student to student because accommodations are designed to meet the individual needs of the student. They may include changes to the curriculum, environment, or methods of instruction.
Accommodations are designed to help your child participate in classroom activities and programs on an equal basis with their non-disabled peers. These accommodations do not change the essential nature of the activity or program, but rather provide your child with the support they need to fully participate and succeed.
How Section 504 Applies To Dyslexic Students
Dyslexia is considered a specific learning disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. This means that students with dyslexia are entitled to receive accommodations and services under both laws.
However, while IDEA requires schools to provide special education services to eligible students, Section 504 requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure equal access to programs and activities. Under an IEP, a student can receive remediation support, individualized education, and their plan has goals and objectives.
A 504 plan provides accommodations that support those common issues that students with dyslexia often face, spelling, executive functioning, memory and so on. There is a lot a teacher can do to support a dyslexic student in the regular education classroom. Whether under IDEA or 504, if there is a substantial impact of dyslexia on learning, then a student is entitled to accommodations at school.
The Benefits of a 504 Plan for Dyslexic Students
A 504 plan is a helpful tool that can provide formal support for your child with dyslexia. And formal support is important when your child struggles with reading and auditory processing. It outlines specific accommodations and services that your child will receive to ensure they have equal access to education. These accommodations may include extra time on tests, assistive technology, and specialized instruction in reading and writing.
By having a 504 plan in place, all school personnel will be aware of your child's needs, so you don’t have to constantly remind school staff about what your child needs. With a plan, you can point to the plan and reconvene a meeting if the plan isn’t working.
Grace was a middle school student with remediated dyslexia who could read and write above grade level thanks to a lot of hard work and her Wilson Reading Program. Her dyslexia still showed up in her spelling and affected her grades. Along with the school, we all agreed that she would benefit from a 504 Plan for her dyslexia. With her plan, she was no longer graded for her spelling. With this one accommodation, Grace became a straight “A” student.
How to Get a 504 Plan for Your Child
There are multiple steps a parent must follow if you believe that your child may be eligible for a 504 plan.
- Contact your child's school and request an evaluation. You can do this by scheduling a meeting with the school's 504 coordinator or by sending a written request to the school principal.
- The school district is required to evaluate your child to determine if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including learning. The evaluation may include assessments by school psychologists, special education teachers, and other professionals but may also be a record review or an analysis of your child’s regular education assessments.
- If available, make sure to provide any outside documentation of your child’s dyslexia or symptoms. While documentation from professionals isn’t required, if you have it, get a simple letter listing your child’s specific issues and needs.
- If the evaluation finds that your child is eligible for a 504 plan, a school team will work with you to develop a plan that meets your child's unique needs. The team may include the school's 504 coordinator, teachers, school psychologists, and other professionals.
- The plan will outline the accommodations and services that your child will receive to ensure equal access to education. This may include accommodations such as extended time on tests, the use of assistive technology, and specialized instruction in reading and writing.
- Once the plan is developed, it will be reviewed and updated annually to ensure that it continues to meet your child's needs. You and your child will be involved in the review process, and you can request changes to the plan if necessary.
What May Be Included in 504 Plans for Students with Dyslexia?
The accommodations and services that may be included in a 504 plan for a dyslexic student will depend on the student's individual needs and the recommendations of the school team. However, some common accommodations and services that may be included in a 504 plan for dyslexic students include:
Assistive Technology: Dyslexic students may benefit from the use of assistive technology such as text-to-speech software, speech recognition software, or audiobooks. These tools can help dyslexic students access written materials and complete assignments more easily. Some technology may also be available for use at home too and should be part of your home dyslexia program.
Specialized Instruction: Dyslexic students may require specialized instruction in reading and writing in order to build the foundational skills necessary to succeed in these areas. This instruction may be provided by a reading specialist without an IEP.
Extended Time on Tests: Dyslexic students may require additional time to complete tests in order to process information and demonstrate their knowledge. This accommodation can help to reduce stress and ensure that the student has enough time to show what they know.
Reading and Writing Accommodations: Dyslexic students may require accommodations such as access to grade level texts in alternative formats, such as audiobooks or digital text, and the use of graphic organizers or other visual aids to help them organize their thoughts and ideas.
Attention, Executive Functioning, Learning and Memory Accommodations: Dyslexics often have executive functioning memory challenges that impact their ability to read and need accommodations that help to scaffold information.
Common Accommodations and Services for Dyslexic Students in 504 Plans
While the accommodations and services listed above are commonly included in 504 plans for dyslexic students, it's important to remember that each plan should be tailored to meet the unique needs of the individual student. The school team responsible for developing the plan should consider factors such as the student's age, grade level, and content area needs when making recommendations.
In addition to the accommodations and services listed above, a 504 plan for a dyslexic student may also include related services such as counseling, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. These services can help to address any mental or physical impairments that may be impacting the student's ability to learn and succeed in the classroom.
I like to present a need and then ask the school, “What supports are available that could help?” I am always surprised what regular education supports are available but that the student I am working with doesn’t have access to.
Accommodations for Dyslexics
Delivery of information:
- Provide audio recordings of books and reading materials
- Allow the use of text-to-speech technology
- Provide pre-exposures of reading materials
- Provide the student notice in advance of larger reading assignments
- Allow the use of speech-to-text software
- Allow students to verbally express themselves
- Allow the use of a scribe
- Allow the use of a keyboard for handwriting tasks
- Assessments given in a small group setting
- Assessments given away from distractions
- Use of colored overlays to reduce glare on white paper
- Use of highlighters to color-code assignments and assessments
Time and Schedule:
- Provide extended time for tests and assignments
- Allow additional breaks during assessments
- Reduce the amount of homework
- Provide the student with an outline of teacher’s direct instruction
- Allow students to use graphic organizers or other visual aids
- Allow the use of math manipulatives
- Provide Orton Gillingham, Wilson, Lindamood Bell or some formal structured phonetic reading instruction
- Provide an additional set of textbooks for use at home
- Provide audio recordings of books
- Use of text-to-speech technology
- Provide access to grade level texts in alternative formats
- Provide Orton Gillingham Instruction
- Allow use of spelling devices
- Do not grade handwritten assignments based on spelling errors
- Reduce the number of spelling words for assessments
- Allow speech-to-text software
- Allow students to verbally express themselves
- Allow the use of a scribe
- Allow the use of a keyboard for handwriting tasks
- Allow additional time to complete assignments
- Reduce the amount of homework
- Check for student understanding prior to assigning homework
A 504 plan can be an invaluable tool for dyslexic students who require accommodations and services to ensure equal access to education. By providing reasonable accommodations and services, schools can help dyslexic students succeed in the classroom and beyond.
If you believe that your child may be eligible for a 504 plan, it's important to contact your child's school and request an evaluation. With the support of a 504 plan and a dedicated school team, dyslexic students can unlock their full potential and achieve academic success.
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Improving the Dyslexic Brain Processing
As bright and creative as the dyslexic brain is, a lack of automatic phonological and language processing can slow down learning. There are things that a parent can do to improve processing aside from direct reading instruction such as Orton-Gillingham, Wilson or Lindamood Bell.
Studies have shown that magnesium can play an important role in improving brain function, particularly for individuals with dyslexia. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in many processes within the brain, including learning and memory. It also plays a role in regulating the nervous system and reducing stress and anxiety. Some research has suggested that magnesium supplementation can improve reading speed and comprehension in individuals with dyslexia, as well as improve other cognitive functions such as working memory and attention.
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy that has shown to improve the brain functioning for individuals with dyslexia. By learning to regulate their brainwave activity, individuals with dyslexia can improve their ability to focus and process information, leading to improved reading and writing skills. Studies have shown that neurofeedback can lead to significant improvements in reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension, as well as improvements in attention and working memory.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) is a non-invasive therapy that has shown promise in improving brain functioning for individuals with dyslexia. CALM PEMF™ uses low-frequency electromagnetic waves to stimulate cellular activity and improve blood flow to the brain. Studies have shown that PEMF can lead to improvements in cognitive function, including attention, memory, and processing speed. PEMF has also been shown to improve reading skills and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals with dyslexia.
Orton-Gillingham Online Tutor. (n.d.). 504 Plan and Dyslexia. Retrieved from https://ortongillinghamonlinetutor.com/504-plan-dyslexia/
U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf
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