The main purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or “IDEA” is “. . . to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living” and “to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected.”
So, what does this mean for parents of children with special needs? What is a “free appropriate public education”? And what is considered a disability? And what do you do if you feel your child isn’t receiving an appropriate education?
You have several options, most of which are not mutually exclusive. A special education attorney can help you determine the best option for your child and guide you through the appropriate special education process.
No matter which option or options you decide are right for you, here are a few words of advice:
First, Document! Document! Document! If it isn't in writing, it didn't happen. (Or, rather, it will be much tougher to prove.) If you have a conversation, send a follow up letter documenting the substance of the conversation. If you request an evaluation, put it in writing. Having something in writing can make a big impact during negotiations or in a hearing.
Second, don’t wait too long to hire counsel if you are contemplating filing a request for due process. There is a statute of limitations.
Third, ask for help. Whether it’s an advocate, special education attorney, or a family friend who knows about special education, ask for help so that you are able to effectively advocate for your child. No one knows your child like you, so you are certainly imperative in the process, but in order to maximize your effectiveness, you must know the rules. Attorneys know the rules. That’s their job. That’s my job.