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Article: Guide To Education

Special Education

Table of Contents
  1. Teacher Education Requirements & Resources
  2. Funding Education
  3. Parents and School
  4. Private Education
  5. Public Education
  6. Life after High School
  7. Special Education
  8. Students
  9. Learning Disabilities

Special Education Programs and Services
Assistive Technologies:   See Guide to Assistive Technology

The rights of individuals with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate education (FAPE) have been enforced through a series of laws. These laws resulted in making special education available to all students. In order to qualify for special education services a student must have been evaluated and found in need of the services that special education provides.

In the 1960s advocates sought Federal support to provide a free and appropriate education for children with disabilities. In 1966 Congress established the Bureau for Education of the Handicapped under Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA). Soon after in 1970, the Education of the Handicapped Act was passed providing independent legislation for the education of individuals with disabilities.

Despite the passage of such laws, many children with disabilities were not served by the public schools. Two Federal court decisions (Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia) also set the stage for the enactment of a new law.

In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA). This same legislation was amended in 1997 and is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA. The four purposes of IDEA have remained the same since 1975:

  • To ensure that all children with disabilities have a free, appropriate public education
  • To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents or guardians are protected
  • To assist States and localities to provide for the education of all children with disabilities
  • To assess the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities

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Evaluation under IDEA

IDEA outlines different laws and regulations on the assessment process of individuals with disabilities that determine if a student is eligible for special education services. There are also laws that guide the evaluation process that determines whether or not to continue special services for a disabled student.

According to IDEA, assessments to determine eligibility for special education should be:

  • Conducted by a multi-disciplinary team made up of individuals who have expertise in different areas. At least one of these individuals should have expertise in the area of disability
  • Given more than one time. A different person should administer each evaluation
  • Testing a student's special education needs and not their English language skills

The outcome of these assessments help to determine the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Based on the results, services and goals for the student are identified by the IEP team. The team is made up of parents, teachers, and educators.

Before determining that a child with a disability is no longer eligible for special education another evaluation needs to be conducted. However, if services were terminated because the student graduated from high school with a regular high school diploma, then another evaluation is not required.

Learning Disabilities Online
This webpage has different articles that discuss evaluation and special education. Many of these articles discuss how evaluation for special education works and how to interpret the results of different assessments.

ISER is a nationwide directory of professionals who serve the learning disabilities and special education communities. On their site you will find a directory of professionals that have expertise in evaluating a child for special education.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The U.S. Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website brings together IDEA information to help you explore resources on infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities
This website provides up-to-date research and policy information on the state of such educational offerings in all 50 states and five territories.

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Special Education Programs and Services

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a document that outlines special education and related services designed to meet the needs of a student with disabilities. By law the IEP is developed by a team that consists of:

  • The child's parent
  • At least one of the child's regular education teachers
  • A representative of the school system
  • An individual who can interpret the evaluation results
  • Representatives of any other agencies that may be responsible for paying for or providing transition services
  • The student, as appropriate
  • Other individuals who have a knowledge or special expertise about the child

The IEP contains goals and objectives based on the student's present level of educational performance. It specifies placement, related services, when services will begin, how long they will last, and the way in which the student will be evaluated. The IEP also addresses transition needs beginning at age sixteen.

The IEP provides an opportunity for parents and educators to work together to identify a student's needs. During IEP meetings certain things should be considered and discussed. Listed below is a link to an article that talks about what things should take place during an IEP meeting to ensure that parents and educators are working together effectively.

The IEP is a written commitment identifying the resources that the school agrees to provide. It is reviewed periodically to evaluate a student's progress toward meeting established goals and objectives. The document can be revised as the needs of the student change. For these reasons, the IEP is the cornerstone of special education.

If for some reason parents do not agree with the IEP for their child, the following steps can be taken to help resolve the situation:

  • Parents should first meet with school officials to discuss their concerns
  • If that is ineffective, parents can ask for mediation. During mediation, parents and members of the IEP committee meet with a mediator to resolve concerns
  • Parents can also ask for a due process hearing where all parties appear before an impartial hearing officer
  • Another option for parents is to file a complaint with the state education agency. In doing this parents should write directly to the SEA (State Education Agency) and identify what part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) they believe the school has violated. By law the agency must resolve the complaint within 60 calendar days
  • For additional help, The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution exists to help parents and educators handle disputes. The center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and acts as an online resource for those needing assistance with the mediation process. 

Individualized Education Program Checklist
This pdf contains a checklist of what steps should be discussed at an IEP planning meeting.

Individualized Education Program (IEP) : The Process
This article defines what the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is and how it works.

This article on LDOnline features the basics of what an IEP is, how to develop an IEP, and the different parts of an IEP.

CADRE, the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution
If you have a disagreement with the school about your child's IEP or the services that your child is receiving then the CADRE can help you. This organization is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and exists to help those who need assistance in providing their child with special education services.

Private Special Education
Some private schools offer some special education services. Other schools focus specifically on special education. These schools do not depend on Federal funds for support. They are supported by the tuition from families, donations and grants. In many cases scholarships are available. Sometimes a student's benefits from the government can cover tuition costs (Social Security or Medicaid).

National Association of Private Special Education Centers
This non-profit association represents private special education centers and their leaders. Also on this site is a referral service for parents and professionals.

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Last Updated on 8/16/2017