Special Education is intended to provide specialized educational programs
and services to meet the unique needs of your child as required by the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was enacted by the U.S. Congress
in 1975 and applies to all states.
Knowing the basics of special education
law and how to implement the rules in a practical way can make a significant
difference in your child’s educational experience
Some "Basics" of IDEA:
Students who are between the ages of 3 and 21 and have a disability which
adversely affects their educational experience may be eligible for special
education services and programs.
a loaded term.
No parent is happy when her child is “labeled” with a
disability. While the line between “disability” and “ability”
is often paper thin, the term implies instead a huge concrete wall
between your child and other children. While it is important not to
avoid the realities your child faces and not to fall into the trap
that all children are the same, it is no stretch to remember that
all human beings have abilities and disabilities. After all Franklin
Roosevelt could not walk but was president 4 times. Stephen Hawking
is “severely disabled” but understands the universe like
few on this earth. Where I live there is a young man who is severely
developmentally delayed and is a nationally recognized weight lifter.
“Disabilities” covered by IDEA are: learning disabilities, emotional
difficulties, hearing loss, speech and language problems, orthopedic disabilities,
autism, developmental delay, ADHD and ADA, brain injuries, vision loss,
and “other health impaired" conditions.
Once a child qualifies for special education she is entitled to an “individualized
education program” or IEP which discusses in detail the specific “related”
services, programs, strategies, and placement needed to meet her “unique
Special education placement options include a regular classroom in your
child’s neighborhood school, a special class in that school, a special
class in another school, a regionalized program, and even private and residential
schools, depending on the complexity of your child’s needs.
Your child may also be able to access additional services through
what is called a “504” plan. This refers to federal law
– section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – which
requires that although a child may not qualify for special education
under IDEA, he may be eligible for help under section 504. Your child’s
school district is required to inform you about 504 and how it works.
Examples of related services are speech therapy, physical therapy, counseling,
language remediation, vision services, interpreters, and special physical
By law, you are “equal” partners in making educational decisions
for your child. Your school district cannot assess, place, or provide services
for your child without your approval.
If in fact, there is a disagreement between you and your child’s school
district about any segment of her special education program (IEP), you have
the right to present that dispute to an impartial third party who will decide
whether you or the school district is correct.
|The Role of an
Our firm has two philosophies that govern our assistance to parents:
The attorneys at Zatopa & Stephens have helped children in special
education and their parents/guardians over the last 25 years. We can
help you in one or more of these ways:
- Parents, as much as possible, should work positively with school
districts to address the education of their children without the
direct involvement of attorneys.
- When an attorney is necessary to assist parents in obtaining
appropriate services from school districts, the attorney should
endeavor to resolve the problem in as positive and cooperative
a manner as possible, using formal legal procedures only as a
- Provide consultation services
to assess your child’s situation, and “advise”
you on steps you can take to resolve your difficulty on your own
without direct involvement of an attorney.
- Assist you to obtain outside assessments,
a crucial step in determining whether a child is in need of special
education, and if so, what services the child needs.
- Provide direct representation
in the assessment, eligibility, IEP, or due process procedures
of special education.
- Assist you, either by advice
or direct representation, in making decisions as to when/how/who
will assess, what placement and service options are available,
whether you should go through due process if you are in disagreement
with the school district, what to do at the IEP meeting and finally
what role if any, an attorney will play in this. Click
here for information on how to contact us.