Alphabet Soup Part 3: FAPE

Have you ever heard of FAPE? Did you know it is part of a national law? FAPE stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education. It is part of IDEA (this will be part 4 of this blog series). FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It guarantees that children with disabilities not have to pay for their necessary support as is provided to their non-disabled peers. In addition, it allows access to general education services for students with disabilities by allowing for support and related services take place in the general education setting as much as possible.


This is such an important piece of the law to understand as a parent. We as parents usually interpret the law to mean that public schools have to provide our child with the BEST education. This is simply not the case and leads to many misunderstandings. Usually the teachers and the schools want to provide the best they can for our students, but many obstacles can prevent us from seeing eye to eye. Money is usually the biggest. As the state of the economy continues to plummet, schools are seeing their budgets reflect that. Many services and technologies can be quite costly, and the schools often do not have the funds to provide what we as parents might want.


There are also ideological and pedagogic differences in opinion for what would be considered best practices for specific students with diagnoses. You might suggest something that an educator might never have encountered before, or have tried with a different student and found it to be unsuccessful. You might ask for a one-to-one aid for your child that the school does not deem necessary. Sometimes, special education parents would advocate to the level that their child receive a better education than their non-disabled peers. This law helps to ensure that does not happen.


Another obstacle that poses a threat to misunderstanding of the law is emotions. Parents can become emotional, especially when they feel their child is being treated unfairly or not receiving what s/he needs to succeed. Educators can become defensive and shut down communication as they feel they are being attacked and mistrusted.


Over the years, the courts have helped define what FAPE is and is not. In short, it is vital for parents to understand that IDEA is not an entitlement program that provides disabled children with a better education than is provided to non-disabled students. Use the chart below to help you learn what FAPE can mean to you and your child, and to dispel the many myths about FAPE. 

FAPE Myths

FAPE Facts

Children with disabilities cannot be charged for

  • Materials
  • Student fees
  • Any other costs that are requested of general education students.

Special education and related services are provided

  • At public expense
  • Under public supervision and direction.
  • Without charge to the parent or guardian.

Children with disabilities are not required to

  • Complete basic requirements for graduation.
  • Pass state-approved assessments that demonstrate State standards.

Children with disabilities are provided

(These allow them to have access to and benefit from instruction so they can meet the standards of the State Education Authority.)

The district must provide

  • A specific specialized program or school setting that is chosen by the parent;
  • A program that provides the child greater access to educational materials than their non-disabled peers.

*FAPE also does not require that a school provide educational services that are superior to those provided to non-disabled peers.

The district must provide a program that

  • Complies with the procedural requirements of IDEA;
  • Addresses the child’s unique needs as identified by evaluations, observation, and the child’s educational team and,
  • Is coordinated to ensure the child is able to make aCdequate progress in the educational setting.

*FAPE requires that the quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities be equal to those provided to non-disabled students.

The student with a disability

  • Must be provided preferential treatment or guaranteed placement in extracurricular activities;
  • Does not have to meet the basic requirements of participation that are required of non-disabled peers.

The student with a disability

  • Must have access to nonacademic and extra curricular equal to those provided to non-disabled peers.


The role of an Education Champion IEP consultant is to help mediate the process of getting parents, educators and administrators to come to agreement on what would be an appropriate and individualized public education and to troubleshoot those obstacles as they arise.


As Kim has sat on both sides of the table as a Special Educator and a Parent, she brings a comprehensive understanding of the viewpoints unique to many advocates. Call Education Champion today for a free consultation: 309.824.5738, or email


Chart credit: National Center for Learning Disabilities

Alphabet Soup Part 2: 504 Plan

In the first blog in this series, I explained what an IEP is. It would be a good idea to read that blog first as it is a good reference point in comparing the two plans.

A 504 Plan is short for an accommodation plan that is covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law that requires any person or agency (school) receiving federal money to have policies in place that prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. As this is an educational blog, I will focus on the school aspect even though the law is broad enough to include other agencies.

Here is a general overview of the differences in the two plans.

504 Plan


Legal document

Legally binding document with far more safe guards and legal repercussions

504 hearing not required to be made available by school district

Due process required to be made available to parents for disagreements

General description of supports the district will provide

Very detailed plan addressing goals, objectives and current levels of performance as related to the specific disability as defined by IDEA

Not specifically special education

Special Education

Made eligible under section 504

Made eligible under IDEA

Can be temporary

(ie student will be allowed use of the elevator while on crutches for 6 weeks)

At least 1 year

Fewer protections for the student

Far more protections for the student

Students with ADHD not required to be provided a 504 plan

Other Health Impaired diagnosis can help students with ADHD

Can cover conditions that IDEA also covers

Can cover conditions that section 504 also covers

All school personnel provide accommodations

Special Educator is the case manager and supports regular educators and others with whom the student comes in contact


In summary, a 504 plan is much more general, can be temporary, is a legal document, but not nearly as binding as an IEP and is not considered to cover special education services.

Here is a great example of a 504 plan for a student diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Dyslexia. It defines how the disability is covered under Section 504, the disability itself, and the specific accommodations necessary for the student to have access to all programming and educational opportunities.

Education Champion can help you determine which path to take in order to help your student be successful in school. EC can also help you prepare for both the IEP or 504 process. Give Kim a call at 309.824.5738 or email her at

Alphabet Soup

In the special education world, there are myriad acronyms. IEP, FAPE, BIS, IDEA, BP, LD, BD, SLD, ASD to name a few. Some call it Alphabet Soup. In this series of blogs, I will explain the most common of the acronyms.


IEP: Individualized Education Plan. The IEP is one of the most important documents in your child’s life.


This plan is for any student with a diagnosed learning, emotional, physical disability. It is a legally binding document that seeks to provide goals and benchmarks addressing all areas of disability.


The IEP is created by a team in an IEP meeting. The team includes but is not limited to school personnel: regular and special educators and paraprofessionals, principal, director of special education, social worker, counselor, nurse, and psychologist. It also includes specific lay people or professionals who may be invited by the parents like a psychiatrist, doctor, private counselor, behavioral specialist, advocate or educational specialist. The parents are invited and encouraged to attend. Side note: as educators, we would much prefer to be in disagreement and discord with parents than to have them so apathetic that they do not attend these very important annual meeting. When appropriate, the child is also invited to attend.


All members of the child’s team are invited, reminded and reminded again as the school is required by law to contact the parents three times before the meeting. It is that important that the parents attend. You are know your child best, and your input is invaluable!


Each member’s input is given and documented. The special educator often comes with goals in mind for the child to accomplish and the time frame in which those goals (more on goals in a separate blog) are expected to be met. The steps to reach each goal are called benchmarks.


All members of the team must approve the goals and sign the document. At the end of each IEP meeting, the parents are given copy for their records, another goes to the teacher and another in the child’s school file.


Parents will receive updates on those goals each academic quarter or trimester. They usually receive a printed piece of paper with an indicator of how the child is progressing toward each goal with the quarterly report card. If there are questions about the child’s progress, it is important that the parents express those as soon as they receive the progress report to ensure that everyone is in agreement. Getting to an IEP meeting and finding out your child will not meet the goals placed at the previous year’s meeting for the first time is unacceptable. Working together throughout the year and keeping lines of communication is imperative.