Special Education Services for Students With Migraine

by Tammy Rome Patient Advocate

Students with Migraine disease are often exposed to a trigger-filled environment over which they have no control. Loud noises, strong smells, bright lights, tight schedules, and inflexible due dates fill our children’s schools. Most are a veritable minefield of potential triggers. If your student has Migraine, their educational success may depend on the school’s willingness and ability to make the necessary accommodations. Asking for accommodations is difficult enough for adults. This challenge is magnified for children. They simply don’t have the social skills to negotiate the stigma expressed by the adults who care for them. They can become easy targets for bullies, too.

Set them up for success

The stakes are high for children with Migraine. We want to give our kids the best chance for success. In addition to early medical intervention, students with Migraine may also benefit from special education services that provide these accommodations.

Possible accommodations

  • No penalty for absences or tardies due to Migraine symptoms

  • Flexible due dates and no grade penalty for late work

  • Permission to wear sunglasses, a hat, or FL-41 tinted glasses

  • Permission to wear earplugs or headphones

  • Ability to rest in a quiet, comfortable room during an attack

  • Ability to leave the classroom quickly and independently in case of vomiting

  • Older teens may be allowed to keep acute medication with them during the school day

  • Access to water and light snacks throughout the day

  • Note-taking service during absences or visual disturbances

  • Tutoring services or home-based instruction in the event of extended absence or hospitalization

  • Alternate testing (quiet room, verbal instead of written, etc.)

  • Exempt from pep rallies or assemblies that may trigger attacks

Legal protections for student with disabilities

All U.S. public schools are required to provide every qualified student with “a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.” This right is protected by two federal laws:

Under both laws, disabled students are entitled to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, free of discrimination. This is accomplished through the implementation of either:

  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are regulated by IDEA. - 504 Plans are regulated by Section 504 of the ADA.

Benefits of an IEP or 504 Plan

  • Gives students with disabilities a fair chance benefit from public education

  • Reduces the risk of academic failure

  • Facilitates the development of self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Facilitates the transition to work or to higher education

  • Facilitates access to university or college disability services.

Starting an evaluation

  • Your student is entitled to one evaluation per school year.

  • Requests for evaluations must be submitted in writing.

  • The school is required to obtain your consent and begin the evaluation or explain in writing why they decline.

  • You have the right to appeal the decision.

  • The appeals process must be explained in writing and may vary with each school district.

  • Once you start the process, it is important that you follow through to get services as quickly as possible.

  • The school psychologist or social worker will contact you for written permission to begin the evaluation process, typically within 30 days of initial request.

  • The evaluation process

  • The school has 60 days to begin its evaluation after receiving signed consent.

  • A variety of methods may be used to evaluate your child:

    1. academic and disciplinary records

    2. standardized testing results

    3. psychological testing

    4. medical records

    5. mental health records

  • When the evaluation is complete, you and your child will be invited to an IEP meeting, where the results of the evaluation will be discussed and eligibility determined.

  • You may invite anyone you desire to participate in the final evaluation, including outside professionals such as doctors, counselors, or ministers.

  • If your child is eligible, you will be asked to sign a consent form to implement the IEP.

What happens if my child is not eligible?

He or she may be considered for a 504 Plan or other special services.
If you disagree with evaluation, you may request an independent education evaluation at no cost to you.

Tammy Rome
Meet Our Writer
Tammy Rome

Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group.