What Are My Parental Rights Under IDEA
When you have a child with special needs school age can be a stressful time. Deciding what school will be best is stressful enough but sitting in a meeting discussing all of the things with school administrators can make you feel powerless. As someone who sits in IEP meetings regularly let me tell you YOU are the most powerful person in that room. I have sat in some where the parents bring a list of topics to cover and I have heard of a family bringing a lawyer just for good measure. These parents knew exactly what they wanted for their child.
Lets break it down:
IEP=Individualized Educational Plan
A plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.
FAPE= Free appropriate public education
Requires a school to provide special education to meet the unique needs of a child. This means specially designed instruction. Provide related services to help the child benefit from special education (OT, PT speech). Provide these services for free at no cost to parents and caregivers.
FAPE does not require a school to provide the best services possible for kids, or “maximize” their potential. Instead, the law requires that schools provide services that are “reasonably calculated” to help a child make progress. FAPE isnt a right to preferential treatment.
If you suspect your child has a disability the best initial step would be to go to your pediatrician. They will be able to guide you in the right direction of any specialist that may be required and to qualify under the IDEA act your child will need a diagnosis that would fall under one of the categories. A medical diagnosis with documentation will be required.
IDEA= IDEA is the nation’s special education law. It gives rights and protections to kids with disabilities. It covers them from birth through high school graduation or age 21 (whichever comes first).
*Before this law children requiring special education were typically placed in different schools.
So what diagnoses qualify under IDEA?
- Emotional disturbance
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disability
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment (includes ADHD)
- Specific learning disability (includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences)
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment, including blindness
Now the grey area in this is that with one of these diagnoses a child must also present difficulties related to the diagnosis and require special education to make progress in school. For example, a child with ADHD may be doing well in school with no significant delays, this child would not qualify to receive services as there is no disability as a result of the diagnosis.
All of the above laws and plans are required in PUBLIC schools. Public schools receive federal funding for special education and are therefore required to provide services. Private schools do not receive funding and can deny a student due to not being able to adequately provide the needed services.
Let’s say your child has a diagnosis, is qualifies them for services, and they are starting school. We need an IEP! During registration, the school will be aware that a meeting will need to take place.
At the beginning of every IEP meeting, you will be given a set of parental rights, you can refuse these if you don’t want a physical copy but they should be presented every single time.
Even if your child is receiving outside therapy services that does not mean they will qualify for PT, OT, and speech in schools. All school-based therapy has to work on school-related goals and because of that, you will sign a “consent to evaluate” form giving the related services in the school permission to evaluate your child. You will meet again and discuss the finding and determine if your child will receive services in school. They will not evaluate your child without you signing this form. This team also cannot meet without you UNLESS you have given permission, or there have been multiple documented attempts and a parent is just not responding to the notices and has no-showed to multiple meetings. The parent making decisions during these meetings will have to be the legal guardian.
An IEP meeting will determine what class your child will be in, the goal is always to place your child in the least restrictive environment, meaning they will be in a classroom with other kids as much as possible. An example would be a child in a general classroom with support from a paraprofessional. Sometimes this is not in the best interest for some of our more medically severe students **specifically where I work** children placed in self-contained rooms still go to the activity and sometimes recess/lunch with students in general classrooms ensuring they get that social interaction.
As a parent, you have the right to your child’s progress and school information. I personally will have parents contact me asking what we’re working on in OT so they can also practice at home. I will also send pictures or notes home to keep parents in the loop. You can ask teachers and therapists anything about your child at any time. If you want to look at making changes to your child’s education you can also call an IEP meeting at any time.
Finally, we come to transition plans. This will happen for older children only, as children receiving special education services can remain in school until they are 21. Typically schools work with Vocational Rehab to provide resources to families for transitioning out of school. I have also written a blog about ideas for when your child graduates.
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