Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Your Child's Rights (page 2)
To understand your child's rights in America's public schools, it helps to start with one of the primary laws governing the education of children with disabilities: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 101-476). IDEA is a federal law that guarantees a free and appropriate public education for every child with a disability. This means that if you enroll your child in public school, his/her education should be at no cost to you and should be appropriate for his/her age, ability and developmental level. IDEA is an amended version of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), passed in 1975. In 1997, IDEA was reauthorized (P.L. 105-17), further defining children's rights to educational services and strengthening the role of parents in the educational planning process for their children.
Getting a copy of IDEA
Copies of the IDEA law and/or regulations are available from the Government Printing Office or may be available at your public library. Your state senator may also be able to provide you with a copy. Or you can visit the Web site of the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education (FAPE) project, run by the PACER Center and funded by the U.S. Department of Education or the IDEA Partnerships Web site at http://www.ideapractices.org/ for information on the law and its regulations.
IDEA has both statutes and regulations. The IDEA statute is the governing legislation - the language of the law, and the regulations are an explanation of how the law is to be enacted. The law explains what conditions exist; the regulations explain how these conditions are applied.
Learn more about:
- Appropriate vs. Ideal
- Placement Options
Appropriate vs. Ideal
Given the rights your child has to educational services, you must keep in mind that IDEA establishes the minimum requirements schools must provide. For states to receive federal funds, they must meet the eligibility funding criteria of IDEA. States may exceed the requirements and provide more services. They cannot, however, provide less or have state regulations or practices that contradict the guidelines of IDEA.
The federal regulations do not require states to provide an "ideal" educational program or a program the parents may feel is "best." The state must provide an appropriate educational program, one that meets the needs of the individual student.
Two other laws governing the educational rights of students with disabilities are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-380), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, (P.L. 93-112).
In brief, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of a student's educational records and outlines inspection and release of information. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination against a person with a disability by an agency receiving federal funds.
Parents need to be aware of the educational rights and the placement options available. There is not a "one size fits all" model for the education of children with disabilities. Programs that are called "autism classrooms" or "autism programs" may not provide the services and curriculum that are right for your child. Therefore, it is possible that a child with autism may not receive an appropriate education in an "autism class." The range of available placement options allows for the creation of unique educational placements for each child.
Placement options range from total inclusive settings where children with autism receive their education alongside non-disabled peers to private placement in residential programs for children with disabilities. Within that range, a wide variety of plans can be created to meet the unique needs of each student. A parent may wish to look at placement options as they currently exist for other students. By viewing current special education programs and inclusive classrooms, you'll get an idea of how other Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) have been put into practice.
Determining the most appropriate placement for your child is a two-step process:
- Determine your child's level of functioning and associated needs by requesting an evaluation or re-evaluation through the school or an independent professional(s). This evaluation should include specific recommendations for supports, educational services and levels of treatments.
- In collaboration with your child's prospective teacher(s), service providers and school administrator; develop a well-defined and thorough IEP. Discuss the options for placement that meet the needs of your child. How does the school currently provide services for children with disabilities? Are there programs currently in place that can be modified to meet my child's needs? Using this information, you and the school together can determine your child's most appropriate placement.
Reprinted with the permission of the Autism Society.
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