Emily Levy


Child Missing Milestones? When the Next Step is an IEP

An individualized education plan (IEP) may be the answer for some studentswith special needs. (Getty Images)

Have you noticed your child struggling in school? Perhaps they are having a hard time learning to read, can’t grasp multistep math problems, or are having difficulty staying focused in class. 

Their self-esteem is plummeting as schoolwork becomes increasingly challenging, and their struggles seem insurmountable. Your child may have special needs and, if so, the sooner you can identify these needs and address them, the better it will be for their overall confidence and academic performance. So what can you do?

For starters, if you see your child struggling, talk to their doctor ‎and teacher. Discuss milestones they may or may not have met and determine if their teacher notices the same challenges you see at home. If you feel these struggles are getting worse or think they may benefit from additional accommodations at school, you might consider having them tested. This testing can be done for free either through your state’s early intervention program (if your child is under age 3) or through your child’s school district. The evaluation and specific tests administered may differ, but evaluators will typically test your child’s IQ and will likely also test language, motor, behavior, and achievement skills.


Depending on the evaluation results and your child’s needs, your child may qualify for either an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan. An IEP details your child’s specific goals and a plan for what your school will do to help meet those goals, including specific services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and academic support. A 504 plan helps provide accommodations for support within the classroom, such as additional time on tests, an aide in the classroom, preferential seating, and/or modified homework. Typically students who have a less severe disability  (such as anxiety, ADHD, etc.) and not a diagnosed learning disability will receive a 504. Students who need more services, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, special education teacher support services, etc., would receive an IEP.


Federal law indicates that every child is entitled to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. Three specific federal laws apply to children with special needs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws’ specifics can vary by state, so it’s important for you to understand the procedures and criteria specific to your state.

IDEA‎ stipulates that a child’s issues must fall into one of 13 categories to be eligible for special education services. Section 504 mandates that schools cannot discriminate against students who have disabilities and are required to provide appropriate accommodations to them. Students covered under Section 504 usually have less severe disabilities or do not fall into one of the categories stipulated under IDEA. The ADA indicates that children with special needs cannot be discriminated against and must be provided appropriate services and programs suitable to their needs. If your school district refuses to provide appropriate services to your child, you may initiate a due process hearing to challenge their decision. 


It is easy to go into a bit of negative space when dealing with your child’s educational support. Remember to focus on your child’s strengths; they may struggle with reading and writing but may excel with math computation. Or maybe your child is incredibly social, empathetic, and ‎kind. Perhaps they are a talented artist, a great storyteller, or a whiz at building Legos. Praise your child for small accomplishments, like sitting next to a friend at lunch who seemed sad, drawing a beautiful flower, or creating an elaborate Lego tower. As you help your child academically with areas in which they may struggle, continue to build their self-esteem, and explain that no one is perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses as well as areas we need to work on improving. Your special needs child can still have dreams and aspirations that can be achieved with support and guidance.

Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades PreK-12 in New York City, New Jersey, and Westchester. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a study skills workbooks series emphasizing test-taking, note-taking, reading comprehension, writing, and executive functioning strategies, and the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Top Education Apps to Supplement Your Child’s At-home Learning

While some children are back at school in-person, others are adjusting to the “new normal” of online at-home learning. Students can still learn and absorb a great deal of information in this virtual format, but supplementing your child’s learning with education apps can only help foster their academic growth. Try some of the apps detailed below for reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.


Grades Prek-6
Epic is a fantastic ebook app that offers a wide universe of over 35,000 books for kids to choose from.‎ Students can search for various authors, publishers, or themes and can either read the books themselves or have the books read aloud to them while they follow along. Parents can also monitor their child’s progress with the data tracking feature that tracks the amount of time spent reading as well as the total pages and books read. Kids can earn special rewards for reaching certain milestones. This subscription-based service is a great way for students to keep up with their reading while learning at home.

Writing-Book Creator

Grades 3-12
With online schooling, it’s imperative that kids continue to develop their writing skills. Using this Book Creator app, kids can write and publish their own digital books. They can create fiction books, nonfiction books, comics, and more, and can even integrate video and audio clips as well as visual images. The app offers children the opportunity to create and maintain a portfolio of their writing pieces without lugging around an old-fashion binder. This tool is interactive and fun for kids to use, and is particularly great for those who tend to dislike more traditional pen-to-paper writing tasks.


Grades PreK-5
Spla‎shLearn is an engaging, visual app for kids that gives them lots of extra practice with key math concepts in a multi-sensory, interactive way. The topics presented are curriculum-aligned to each grade and the app tracks kids’ progress so parents can gauge areas of mastery and concepts that need continued development. Kids get instant feedback on any mistakes they make, and they love the virtual “rewards” they can earn as they progress forward.

Science-K-5 Science

Grades K-5
This app is a great one for expanding your child’s science knowledge with over 200 colorful and engaging lessons. A character named “Haley the Science Gal” brings science to life by breaking down complex science concepts into easy-to-understand explanations and demonstrating cool science experiments.‎ There are game shows, videos, interactive games, and tons of questions to spark your child’s curiosity. Kids will learn about space, animals, plants, volcanoes, magnets, energy and so much more!

Social Studies-PBS Students

Grades K-12
Pull your child’s social studies learning out of the textbook with this multi-dimensional app. Students will watch videos, listen to audio clips, read about fascinating current events, and play games, helping them to grasp important social studies information. ‎They’ll learn about geography, U.S. History, World History, government, economics, and more, all while having loads of fun!
Learning at home may be the new temporary norm, but don’t let your child’s education stop when the school day ends. Continue to expand your child’s knowledge with these cool apps and they will be well on their way to academic success.
For more information on Dr. Emily Levy and EBL Coaching, click here!
This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com

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