Students with Disabilities

Discover essential information, guidance, and support to help you navigate the educational process for students with disabilities and advocate for your child's unique needs.

Students with Disabilities

Every child learns and develops differently. Education that supports students with disabilities offers a supportive framework to ensure your child reaches their full potential in school. This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to navigate this path effectively.

Understanding Your Rights

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): The law guarantees all eligible children a quality education tailored to their needs, regardless of disability. This means your child has the right to receive the necessary support to succeed in school.

Active Participation: You and your child are key players in this process. You have the right to be involved in decision-making and collaborate with the school team to ensure your child's needs are met.

Education Laws for Students with Disabilities

Understanding the laws that protect your child's right to education is crucial. Here are the key education laws every parent should know.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA ensures services to children with disabilities throughout the nation, guaranteeing them a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

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Parent and Student Participation

Learn how parents and students can actively participate in the education process.

Role of Parents
Role of Parents

Parents are essential members of the education team. You know your child best and your input is invaluable in creating an effective education plan.

  • Attend all IEP meetings
  • Share your insights and concerns
  • Work collaboratively with educators
Student Involvement
Student Involvement

Students, especially those 14 and older, should be involved in their IEP meetings. Their input helps tailor the education plan to their interests and needs.

  • Express personal goals and concerns
  • Participate in setting educational objectives
  • Develop self-advocacy skills
Parent Advisory Council
Parent Advisory Council

Join your local Parent Advisory Council (PAC) to collaborate with other parents and provide input on education services in your district.

  • Share experiences and advice
  • Advocate for effective education policies
  • Engage with the school community
Communication Tips
Communication Tips

Effective communication with your child's educators is key to ensuring their success. Here are some tips to help you communicate effectively.

  • Maintain regular contact with teachers
  • Prepare for meetings by listing concerns and questions
  • Be open and honest about your child's needs

Appropriate Evaluation

An appropriate evaluation is a comprehensive assessment process used to determine if a child has a disability and needs education services. It involves gathering information from various sources, including parents, teachers, and specialists, to create a complete picture of the child's abilities and needs.

What is an Evaluation
What is an Evaluation?

An evaluation is a detailed assessment of your child's educational strengths and needs. It includes a variety of tests and observations to determine if your child has a disability and what services they might need.

Referral Process
How to Make a Referral

If you or your child's teacher are concerned about your child's progress, you can request an evaluation. Contact your child's principal or education administrator to make a referral. Written consent from you is required to begin the evaluation process.

Evaluation Process
The Evaluation Process

The evaluation process includes various assessments such as educational, psychological, and health evaluations. Qualified professionals will assess your child's needs to determine if they qualify for education services.

Evaluation Results
Understanding the Results

After the evaluation, you will receive a report detailing the results. This report will help the IEP team determine the best educational plan for your child. You have the right to review the evaluation results before the IEP meeting.

Independent Evaluation
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

If you disagree with the school's evaluation, you have the right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This evaluation will be conducted by a qualified professional not employed by the school district.

Learn about the evaluation process

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document that outlines the specific education services, supports, and goals for a child with a disability. The IEP is tailored to meet the child's unique needs and is developed collaboratively by a team of educators, specialists, and the child's parents.

  • What is an IEP?

    An IEP is a comprehensive plan that details the education services, supports, and goals for your child. It is tailored to meet your child's unique needs and includes the following components:

    • Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP): Describes the child's current performance in academic and functional areas, including strengths, areas of need, and how the disability affects the child's involvement in the general education curriculum.
    • Measurable Annual Goals: Specifies the academic and functional goals the child is expected to achieve within a year. Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) and tailored to the child's needs.
    • Education and Related Services: Details the specific services the child will receive, such as specialized instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and any other related services necessary for the child's success.
    • Accommodations and Modifications: Lists the changes to the learning environment or teaching strategies that will help the child access the general education curriculum. This can include extended time on tests, preferential seating, or modified assignments.
    • Participation in State and District-Wide Assessments: Describes how the child will participate in standardized testing, including any accommodations or alternate assessments.
    • Progress Monitoring: Explains how the child's progress toward the annual goals will be measured and reported to parents. Progress reports should be provided at least as often as report cards for all students.
    • Transition Services: For students aged 14 and older, the IEP must include a plan for transitioning to post-secondary education, employment, and independent living. This includes specific goals and services to prepare the child for life after high school.
  • Parent Participation

    Parents play a crucial role in the IEP process. Your insights and observations about your child's strengths and needs are vital in creating an effective IEP. You have the right to participate in all meetings and decisions regarding your child's education.

  • The IEP Process

    The IEP process involves several key steps to ensure your child receives the appropriate support and services:

    • IEP Meeting: An IEP meeting is held to develop, review, and revise the IEP. Parents, teachers, and specialists collaborate to create a comprehensive plan that addresses the child's needs.
    • Implementation: Once the IEP is developed and signed by the parents, the school is responsible for implementing the services and supports outlined in the document. This includes ensuring that all teachers and service providers are aware of their roles and responsibilities.
    • Annual Review and Updates: The IEP is reviewed at least once a year to assess the child's progress and make any necessary adjustments. However, parents or educators can request a review at any time if there are concerns or if the child's needs change.
    • Triennial Reevaluation: Every three years, the child must undergo a comprehensive reevaluation to determine continued eligibility for additional education services and to update the IEP as needed.
  • Services and Supports

    The IEP outlines education services and supports your child will receive, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and classroom accommodations. These services are provided at no cost to you and are designed to help your child succeed in school.

Learn More About the IEP Process

Section 504 Plans

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ensures that students with disabilities receive the necessary accommodations to access the same educational opportunities as their peers. A 504 Plan outlines the specific adjustments and supports that will be provided to help your child thrive in a general education setting. These plans are crucial for addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to the curriculum and can participate fully in school activities.

  • What is a 504 Plan?

    A 504 Plan is designed to provide accommodations and support for students with disabilities to ensure their success in the general education curriculum. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools must provide necessary adjustments to help students with disabilities have equal access to education.

  • Eligibility for a 504 Plan

    Students with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities may be eligible for a 504 Plan. This includes conditions such as ADHD, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

  • Components of a 504 Plan
    • Accommodations: Adjustments to the learning environment, such as extended time on tests, preferential seating, and modified assignments.
    • Related Services: Support services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.
    • Implementation: Clear guidelines on how the accommodations will be provided and who is responsible for implementing them.
  • The 504 Plan Process
    • Referral: A 504 Plan can be initiated by a parent, teacher, or other school personnel if there are concerns about a student's ability to access the general education curriculum.
    • Evaluation: The school will conduct an evaluation to determine if the student qualifies for a 504 Plan based on their specific needs.
    • Meeting: A team meeting, including parents, teachers, and specialists, is held to develop the 504 Plan.
    • Review: The 504 Plan is reviewed annually to ensure it continues to meet the student's needs.
  • Rights and Protections

    Under Section 504, students with disabilities are protected from discrimination and are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Parents have the right to be involved in all aspects of the 504 Plan process and can request a hearing if they disagree with the school's decisions.

Learn More About Section 504

Understanding Your Child's Educational Rights

Ensuring Inclusive Education: The goal of education is to ensure that children with disabilities receive an education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This means that, whenever possible, your child should be educated alongside their non-disabled peers.

Making Placement Decisions: The IEP team, which includes you as parents, makes decisions about the most appropriate setting for your child's education. This team carefully considers your child's unique needs, strengths, and challenges to determine the best environment. The goal is to provide services that allow your child to participate in the general education curriculum and school activities as much as possible.

Understanding Your Rights: As a parent, you have rights and protections under the law to ensure your child receives an appropriate education. These procedural safeguards are designed to ensure you are fully informed and can participate in the decision-making process.

Resolving Disagreements: Sometimes, disagreements may arise between parents and schools regarding a child's education plan. The law provides several ways to resolve these disputes, including mediation, due process hearings, and formal complaints. These mechanisms are in place to ensure that any issues are addressed fairly and that your child's educational needs remain the priority.

By understanding these principles and protections, you can be a strong advocate for your child's education, ensuring they receive the support they need in an inclusive and supportive environment.

 Resources for your consideration

Remember, you're not alone! See below a list of resources for your consideration:

  • Child Find: Every state is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who need education services. Parents can contact their local school district to find out how Child Find is implemented in their area.
  • Request for Evaluation: A parent, teacher, or another school professional can request an evaluation to determine if the child is eligible for education services. Parents can write a formal letter to the school's education director or their child's principal requesting this evaluation. Here's a template to start with.
  • Consent for Evaluation: Once the request is received, the school will seek parental consent to proceed with the evaluation. Parents must approve and sign consent forms before any evaluation can begin.
  • Evaluation: The evaluation must be comprehensive and cover all areas related to the child's suspected disability. It may include observations, psychological testing, and assessments by professional educators.
  • Eligibility Meeting: After the evaluation, a team that includes the child's parents, teachers, and professional educators will meet to review the results and determine if the child meets the criteria for a disability as defined by IDEA.
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP): If the child is found eligible, an IEP will be developed. The IEP includes specific educational goals, the services the child will receive, how progress will be measured, and how the teaching will be adapted to meet the child's needs.
  • IEP Implementation: The IEP is implemented, and the child begins receiving education services. The school must provide the services as outlined in the IEP.
  • Annual IEP Review: The child's IEP is reviewed at least once a year to determine if the educational goals are being met and if any adjustments are needed.
  • Reevaluation: Every three years, the child must be reevaluated to determine if they continue to qualify for education services.
  • Section 504 FAQ: Provides a comprehensive FAQ on Section 504, explaining the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of schools under this law.
  • 504 Plan Guide: Offers detailed information and resources to help parents understand 504 Plans, including how to develop and implement them effectively.
  • Section 504 Information: Provides extensive legal information, guidance, and advocacy tips for parents navigating Section 504 and ensuring their child's educational needs are met.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document that outlines the education services a child with disabilities will receive. Eligibility is determined through evaluations that identify the child's specific needs and whether they meet the criteria for one of the 13 disability categories defined by the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

The IEP is reviewed at least once a year to assess the child's progress and make any necessary adjustments. However, parents or educators can request a review at any time if there are concerns or if the child's needs change.

Procedural safeguards are legal protections for children with disabilities and their parents. They ensure that parents are fully informed about decisions affecting their child's education and can participate in the decision-making process. These safeguards include the right to receive notice, give or withhold consent, access educational records, and use dispute resolution processes like mediation and due process hearings.

If disagreements arise between parents and schools regarding a child's IEP, several dispute resolution options are available, including mediation, due process hearings, and filing formal complaints. These processes are designed to ensure that disputes are resolved fairly and that the child's educational needs are prioritized.

An IEP can include a wide range of services and supports tailored to the child's unique needs. These may include specialized instruction, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral interventions, and classroom accommodations such as preferential seating, extended time on tests, and modified assignments.

Parents are essential members of the IEP team. They provide valuable insights into their child's strengths, challenges, and preferences, ensuring that the IEP is tailored to the child's unique needs. Parents participate in all IEP meetings, help set goals, and collaborate with educators to develop and review the IEP.

To request an evaluation for your child, you can submit a written request to your child's school. This request can be made by you as a parent, a teacher, or other school personnel. The school will then seek your consent to conduct the evaluation, which will assess your child's needs and determine eligibility for education services.

If your child is found not eligible for an IEP, they may still be eligible for support under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A 504 Plan can provide accommodations and modifications to help your child access the general education curriculum. If you disagree with the eligibility decision, you have the right to request a hearing or use other dispute resolution options.

Yes, many children with IEPs receive services in general education classrooms. The IEP team will determine the best placement for your child based on their unique needs. The goal is to educate your child in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), meaning they should be with their non-disabled peers as much as possible while still receiving the support they need.

An IEP is a plan developed for students who qualify for education services under IDEA. It includes specific educational goals, services, and supports. A 504 Plan, on the other hand, is for students who do not qualify for additional education services but still need accommodations to access the general education curriculum. It provides modifications and supports to ensure equal access to education.

If you have any questions and would like assistance, please call ACCESS at 1-844-552-2237 or Submit an Online Request