Federal law requires public schools to provide special education services to all children with disabilities who are eligible to receive them. These services are provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA 2004).

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible for special education and related services under IDEA, your child must first be identified as a “child with a disability”. And, as a result of their disability, your child must also need specially designed instruction and related services in order to benefit from the school’s educational program.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The IEP sets out goals that your child will work towards during the year. It lists the services the school system has committed to provide to help your child achieve these goals. It also explains how the school will track your child’s progress towards reaching these goals and how that progress will be reported to you.

Who writes my child’s IEP?

Your child’s IEP is written by a team of teachers, school personnel, and you, the parent.

How often should my child’s IEP be reviewed?

IEPs must be written at least annually. However, this is not the only time that an IEP meeting may be held. Parents or school personnel should request an IEP meeting whenver they believe the IEP needs to be reviewed or revised. One reason could be that your child is not making progress on their IEP goals or is making progress in some areas, but not in others. Under Alabama law, the school must have a meeting within 30 calendar days of one being requested.

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides protection and services to school children with disabilities. Section 504 is a civil rights statute. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance, including schools. Section 504 ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to participate in services and activities as persons without disabilities.

Who’s eligible?

To be eligible under Section 504, a student must:

-have a physical or mental impairment (permanent or temporary) that substantially limits one or more major life activities;

-have a record of such an impairment; or

-be regarded as having such an impairment.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 transition services are coordinated activities that focus on improving your child’s academic and functional skills so they will be able to achieve their post-school goals.

When should my student transition?

Some students with disabilities need extra time in school to be adequately prepared for adulthood; from further instruction in academics, daily living skills, or behavior management; student needs vary. Planning needs must be individualized for your child/student. Many students don’t like the idea of staying in school after the age 18. However, the extra years of schooling beyond the traditional senior year can be vital. You and your child’s IEP Team can evaluate if the extra time in school will benefit your student.

Which agencies can assist with transition services?

-Vocational rehabilitation counselors, including ones from the Department of Rehabilitation Services

-Admission or disability support staff from post-secondary or vocational schools

-Independent Living Centers

-Persons knowledgeable about financial benefits such as Social Security, Ticket-to-Work programs, or Medicaid

-Personal care or health care providers, including mental health care providers

-Department of Human Resources social workers

-Guidance Counselors


UAB STEP Program

The Staging Transition for Every Patient (STEP) program helps young adults with complex and chronic health conditions transfer from pediatric care at Children’s of Alabama hospital to adult care at UAB Medicine. Many people with serious health conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and sickle cell disease are now living well into adulthood due to advances in treatment. The STEP program started in September 2020 to help with the transition to adult care, which can be difficult for both patients and their families due to medical and insurance changes. UAB Medicine’s STEP Program is the first formal program of its kind in Alabama and the surrounding region.

The STEP program includes a primary care clinic for patients age 18 and older that provides medical care, referrals to specialists, and an individualized transition plan for each patient and family. The goal is to prevent interruptions in medical care and provide support services – such as physical therapy, social workers, nutrition, counseling, and emergency planning – within a single primary care setting. The program also works with adolescent patients age 14 and older to begin preparing them for adult health care.

If your child is ready for the STEP program, please call 205.801.7474 to request a clinic appointment with Dr. Carlie Stein Somerville.

Source: Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, http://www.adap.net | UAB STEP Program, https://www.uabmedicine.org