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My child is struggling at school. Special Education

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeastern Massachusetts
Reviewed February 2022

If your child is getting services now, see: What if my child needs more help?

Could accommodations, special education, or both help?

If your child is struggling at school, they may have a disability. “Struggling” includes difficulty understanding assignments, completing assignments, paying attention in class, staying organized, making friends, or behaving appropriately. If your child is struggling, an evaluation can show if accommodations, special education, or both can help.

Accommodations allow a child to "access the general education curriculum"

Accommodations are changes that make it possible for your child to learn the same things other students in their grade are learning. Accommodations do not change what your child learns but may change how they:

  • learn the material, or
  • show what they know.

Accommodations can be: getting more time to take tests, sitting closer to the teacher, being able to use notes, breaks to take a walk, or a calculator.

Special education includes “specially designed instruction” and “related services”

Specially designed instruction means teachers change the way they teach your child to meet your child’s needs. They may also change the content they teach your child.

Related services are services like speech and language, physical, and occupational therapy, counseling and transportation.

To get accommodations or special education services your child needs an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a Section 504 Plan.

How much will accommodations or special education services cost me?

If your child needs accommodations, special education, or related services, the school district must provide them for free.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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