Frequently Asked Questions

How does a student become eligible to receive services and protection under Section 504?

To become eligible for services and protection under Section 504, a student must be determined, as a result of an evaluation, to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Definitions of terms in the preceding sentence are available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website, under Chapter 15 of the school code.

How does a child become eligible for special education services under IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets forth two criteria for determining whether a child is eligible for special education and related services. First, the child must have a disability. Second, as a result of the disability, the child must need special education and related services.

There are 13 disability categories under IDEA:

  • Autism
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment (which includes ADD/ADHD)
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)

When might a parent need an educational advocate?

During the process of evaluation and/or IEP development in a public school, there may come a point when parents feel they cannot resolve a disagreement over an issue. Educational advocates help parents resolve these concerns before it is necessary to take legal action.

What role can psychologists/speech therapists/tutors play in a school setting?

Some schools have consulting specialists on staff, or use the services of their local Intermediate Unit. Outside specialists may be invited in as consultants after they have observed or evaluated a child. These professionals should maintain regular communication with teachers while providing therapies or tutorial services to students.

What happens after the student sees the specialist?

Many schools employ learning specialists or academic support staff who work closely with professionals outside of the school setting. Critical information about students can be provided through detailed evaluation reports, and is generally supplemented by school conferences involving specialists, parents, and key school staff. Most schools do their best to follow the recommendations of these specialists, thereby helping students to meet with success. 

When will a school recommend that a student see a specialist?

  • When the student is not successful academically, even though the school has implemented all reasonable strategies to help.
  • When the school becomes aware of special emotional, academic, social, physical or speech/language needs that might require more or different support than what staff are able to provide.