There is a civil rights law that protects children with disabilities. It requires school districts to provide whatever your child needs to receive meaningful educational benefit from their schooling. It is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It was written to protect children’s rights.
Federal law (20 United States Code § 1414) covers services and resources that are necessary. It states that school districts must provide:
- necessary services and resources for an eligible child to make appropriate progress toward their annual goals,
- necessary services and resources for an eligible child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum,
- necessary services and resources to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities, and
- necessary services and resources to be educated and to participate with other children with and without disabilities.
Funding should never be an issue.
If your child has issues that keep them from learning, your child may need special education services. Write a letter to your child’s school administrator requesting that your child be tested to see if they are eligible for special education services. Sign and date the letter. Keep a copy for your records. Mail the letter and send it “return receipt requested” to be sure the administrator received it.
If the school agrees to test, they must assess your child in all areas of suspected disability. If the school refuses to test, they must provide the parents with written notice (34 Code of Federal Regulations § 300.503). Some of these areas of suspected disability are:
- academic achievement (grade level success),
- learning potential (living up to potential),
- auditory skills,
- attention deficit issues,
- auditory processing issues (the ability to process words appropriately),
- visual skills (can track when reading and identify things),
- fine motor skills (writing and drawing skills),
- gross motor skills (not clumsy or unsafe),
- social/emotional behaviors (understands, is friendly and gets along),
- audiology (can hear all frequencies),
- health, and
- mental health issues.
When testing is complete, the school will go over the testing with you. If your child is eligible for special education services, your school district must create a program that lays out all the goals, services, and other resources that your child requires. This is called an Individual Education Program (IEP). Your school district must then implement the IEP for your child.
If your child is eligible for special education services, some of the services they may receive are called related services.
Related services can mean
- speech therapy,
- hearing services,
- physical and occupational therapy,
- counseling services,
- school health services,
- school nurse services,
- social work services in schools, and
- parent counseling and training.
For IDEA to be effective and provide the benefit your child needs from their education, you must participate in the design and enforcement of your child’s IEP. This is done during your child’s Admission, Review & Dismissal (ARD) Committee meeting(s).
- Texas Project First – a website that was created by parents, for parents…a project of the Texas Education Agency, committed to providing accurate and consistent information to parents & families of students with disabilities. If your child has been diagnosed with a disability or referred for special education services, this is a great place to start your research.
- The Legal Framework summarizes state and federal requirements for special education by topic. It includes an A-Z index, frameworks, a glossary of special education terms and acronyms, links to statutes, citations, websites, guidance and resources.
- Texas Education Agency provides a wealth of information about special education services and IDEA.
- IDEA Manual 2012, a joint project of The Arc of Texas and Disability Rights Texas provides information about IDEA in clear and easy-to-understand language and is available for free download.