Raising a child with special needs can be a complex and demanding job. You manage your child’s wellbeing and development while maintaining the rest of your family’s life. Giving your child that extra care so he or she can succeed at school can sometimes be overwhelming. That’s why there are specialized programs at school to help your child get the education he or she deserves. But does your child qualify for special education?
According to FAPE (free appropriate public education), schools are required to provide special education to meet the unique needs of a child. FAPE is a powerful legal right for students. Knowing what it covers can help you as a parent advocate for the services and supports your child needs. It can also help schools and families partner with each other.
How to Determine If Your Child is Eligible
To find out if she’s eligible, school officials must do two things. First, they must determine if your child has a “covered” disability. Second, they must determine if it’s severe enough for her to need special education services. The public school district handles both steps. They do this with input and permission from you.
Step 1: The Special Education Evaluation
You, your child’s teachers or anyone else who notices your child is struggling can request an educational evaluation from the school. No matter who requests this, the school needs your permission to take this step.
Some conditions are not learning disabilities but can interfere with learning. Those conditions are usually diagnosed by a doctor or other outside expert, not the school. If this is your situation, you can show proof of your child’s diagnosis. However, the school will probably do its own evaluation to gather more information.
A team of professionals does the evaluation. This team usually includes the school psychologist and other educators. They give your child various tests and review her school records. They also observe her in the classroom.
When the evaluation is complete, the evaluator will write a report. It will include scores, a summary of findings and recommendations for how to help your child. You’ll meet with the team to go over the results. The evaluation gives you and the school insight into your child’s challenges, strengths and needs.
A key finding will be whether your child has one or more of the disabilities listed among the 13 disability categories in IDEA. One of these categories, “specific learning disability,” applies to many kids with learning and thinking differences.
If the evaluation shows your child has a disability that could make her eligible for special education, you’ll move on to the next step.
Step 2: Determining Eligibility for Special Education
If the evaluation shows that your child has a disability, the next step is for the school to determine whether she needs special education services. They’ll make this decision based on their evaluation of your child.
If the school determines your child needs services, the next step is to create an Individualized Education Program ( IEP).
However, even if your child has a “covered” disability, she still might not be eligible. The school may determine that the disability doesn’t keep her from learning adequately in the general education classroom. In that case, it won’t provide special education services.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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