Resources for children with learning disabilities

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, making it federal law that individuals with disabilities are protected from discrimination. Since that passage, accommodations for students with learning disabilities in Illinois have increased dramatically.

To ensure every child has access to quality education, the State of Illinois has implemented a strong statewide program with robust accommodations for various learning disabilities. With the variety of resources and accommodations available to students and parents, it is important to stay informed. This article details the types of accommodations available in the State of Illinois, as well as resources and information for parents.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan formed by a student’s team of school staff, parents/guardians, and the student themself. The plan is designed to outline the support needs of the student and will include the accommodations, services, and supports that they are legally entitled to. Each IEP is different, as the needs of each individual child vary. There are numerous services offered to students by the State of Illinois, including the following:

Assistive Technology
The Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP) ensures that students with disabilities have access to free assistive technology. For many students with learning disabilities, particularly those with speech or verbal delays, this can be incredibly helpful in increasing a child’s ability to communicate.

According to state law, an assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. (34 CFR 300.5)

Assessment Accommodations
Many students with learning disabilities find it difficult to excel in typical testing conditions. Factors such as noise, time constraints, or reading speed may lead to lower assessment scores due to their disability. To combat this, the Illinois State Board of Education offers the following services that may be included in a student's IEP:
  • Extended time to complete testing
  • Highlighting directions
  • Allowing a student to give answers orally
  • Reading the questions aloud
  • Reduced question count
  • Separate testing location 

Instructional Strategies
One of the most important tools for students with learning disabilities is implementing different or additional instructional strategies. Some of these strategies may include:
  • Teaching to a student’s learning style, such as including more hands-on activities
  • Varying instructional types to accommodate all learning styles
  • Using assistive technology 
  • Incorporating supplemental instruction
  • Providing one-on-one support

Environmental Support
Students may find specific environments distracting or disruptive, especially neurodivergent students with ADHD or Autism. Some environmental accommodations may include:
  • Assigned special seating
  • Forming study carrels
  • Helping the student maintain a clean area
  • Providing space for physical movement or breaks
  • Modifying an environment to reduce overstimulation, such as limiting noise or avoiding crowded hallways

Behavioral Support
Some students with learning disabilities may also exhibit behavioral challenges. Some behavioral supports may include:
  • Conducting a functional behavioral analysis 
  • Facilitating socialization with other students
  • Creating and implementing a positive behavioral intervention plan
  • Providing breaks
  • Offering counseling 

Resources for Parents
As a parent, you often know and understand your child’s needs best. Here are some important resources and information that outline your child’s rights to an accessible education:

Filing a 504 Complaint
Students have a right to access safe and accessible education. In specific school districts, a school may be required to offer support to students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is a federal law that requires any person or agency that receives federal funds to implement policies that prevent discrimination based on a person’s disability status.

Some school districts may have a 504 plan, which is a general plan for all students. If a parent disagrees with their school's plan, they have the right to file a 504 complaint with the district.

For more information, including the process for filing a complaint, see the resources below:

Information directly from the State Board of Education about the process for filing a complaint.
This brochure details the steps to take when you want to file a 504 complaint.
General information for parents of students with learning disabilities, including the Parent Guide to Special Education.
Information about Individualized Education Programs (IEP), including the process for beginning a student's IEP.
Information about the Illinois Assistive Technology Program.
Resources from the State of Illinois specifically about early childhood education.
Details different types of disabilities recognized by the State Board of Education.
Includes statewide resources for parents and students with various disabilities.
Includes news, workshops, and seminars for parents and families.
Resource for early education-aged children.
Includes tips, legislation, and news for families of children with disabilities.