As hard as it is to make the right decisions for your child regarding health care, development and well being, the process can be even more complicated when the school is involved, but it's important to partner with them. More importantly, they HAVE to help and it's their obligation to give your child all the resources he or she needs to succeed. According to the federal law IDEA, schools must provide special help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called special education and related services. Here is the first five things you need to know:
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1. Identification. If your child has been diagnosed before, you should inform the school of the situation. If you have the feeling something is off, you can request and evaluation. They can also request it and ask for your authorization.
2.Evaluation. The purpose of this is to answer these three questions: Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services? What are the child's specific educational needs? What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?
3. Eligibility. A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child's evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA. If you disagree with the eligibility decision, you may ask for a hearing to challenge the decision.
4. Development of the education program. If your child is eligible, the school has 30 calendar days to develop an individualized education program (IEP) for special education and related services. This is done by a team of school professionals and the parents. Make sure you attend all the meetings and voice your opinions through the process. You can withdraw your permission at any time. You can also ask for different methods. If they don't comply, you can take them to court.
5. Monitoring and re-evaluation. The plan is evaluated constantly and your child will be re-evaluated in three years.
Remember, the education for your son or daughter with special needs is mandated by a federal law. If your school doesn't respond you need to bring the issue to the school district or the department of education of your state. In extreme cases, the parents have taken the school to court. But don't worry, there are many resources and most people want and have the tools to help.
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