Dysautonomia in K-12 Education

Handling all the aspects of the school day like completing assignments, listening to instructions, participating in gym class, and taking tests, can be challenging when dealing with symptoms of dysautonomia.

If your student is having difficulty at school, some steps can be taken to help them.

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1. Get your student evaluated for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan

2. Develop and implement symptom management strategies

3. Consider utilizing assistive technology

All of these steps are described briefly below and are included in more detail in our Handbook titled Thriving in School: Navigating K-12 Education with Dysautonomia.

504 vs. IEP

Students in grades K-12 who require additional support at school have the right to receive that support by federal law. Each student is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. The two different ways that students with disabilities receive services are a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP)

504 Plan

The 504 Plan is a written plan detailing the modifications and accommodations to a student’s education program in a regular classroom setting. ²

  • It is intended for students who have a disability and can participate in a general classroom setting with additional support. ³
  • 504 Plans include both accommodations and modifications that must be provided within general education.
  • It is intended for students who require individualized special education services


Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan for providing special education programs and other services students may need for academic success. ¹ 

Obtaining a 504 or IEP

 A 504 Plan and/or IEP evaluation can be requested by a parent, teacher, physician, or school-based therapist ⁽⁾⁽⁾. After the evaluation process, both plans are created by a team of professionals with the student and their family ⁽⁾⁽⁾. Depending on the individual's needs, students with dysautonomia could qualify for services under an IEP or 504. However, specific eligibility requirements may vary and no diagnosis automatically qualifies someone for either program.

For more information on the two different plans and how to obtain them, please see pages 5-9  of the Thriving in School Handbook.

Common Accommodations + Modifications

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Accommodations are classroom/school-based changes made by the teacher or school. They are designed to help kids learn the same material and meet the same expectations as their classmates.

Students experiencing delays or difficulties accessing the school curriculum may need changes, or modifications, to the curriculum. Students who receive modifications are not expected to learn the same material as their classmates.

Listed below are some common accommodations and modifications based on symptoms of dysautonomia.

For a more in-depth description of different accommodations/modifications, please see pages 10-20 of the Thriving in School handbook.


  •  Accommodations - preferential seating, brain breaks, elevator pass, extra books for home, locker placement, adjusted class schedule, adapted homework assignments, reduced writing for essays, early class dismissal 
  • Modifications - eliminated or adapted P.E., take-home or open-book exams, adjusted classwork and assignments, reduced homework or classwork 

Orthostatic Intolerance/Low BP:

  •  Accommodations - access to water and snacks, pre-approved nurses’ office visits, and accompanied visits

Brain Fog:

  •  Accommodations - verbal testing, extended time on assignments or tests, provided definitions of complex words, flexible bathroom schedule, movement breaks, separate room for assignments, verbal/visual/technology aids, headphones, notes provided for the class
  • Modifications - elimination of essays (replaced with different types of questions), word bank for fill-in-the-blank questions, spelling graded separately from content, modified grading


  •  Accommodations - excused tardiness, absence, or missed work, scheduling flexibility, an outline of upcoming assignments

Reviewed by Medical Content Experts, 2021

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