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Protecting your child's right to special education

 Posted on December 01, 2021 in Special Education Law

As a parent, you only want what's best for your kids. But it can be overwhelming when your child has special needs. In addition to the daily challenges at home, you must ensure that they receive the best education possible.

Federal law gives children with disabilities the right to receive a free and appropriate public education in Texas – one that's individually designed to meet their disability. However, schools often don’t interpret the law correctly or, in many cases, fail to observe those rights.

What is special education?

In 2004, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which broadly defines special education as “specially designed instruction” meeting the unique needs of children with disabilities. The law directs schools to create individualized plans for children with specific disabilities. To be eligible, your child must:

  1. Have one of the 13 IDEA-listed disabilities
  2. Need specially designed education to make progress in their education

This two-prong test takes into account that not all children with disabilities require special education.

Categories of disabilities that qualify

According to the IDEA, children who receive special education services must be evaluated and may be eligible under any of these disability categories:

  • Autism
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Deaf-hard of hearing
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Intellectual disability
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Noncategorical early childhood
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment

While dealing with any one of these conditions is difficult enough, just about every school district is different when developing with a plan that meets a child's educational needs.

Understanding ARD and IEP

Acronyms can be confusing, but when it comes to your child's special education needs, here are the two most critical ones to understand:

  • ARD: In Texas, the Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee determines eligibility and how the school district must serve your child's education. This is where the plan first takes shape. The committee assesses your child's strengths and weaknesses, their academic, developmental and functional needs and your concerns in developing an appropriate educational plan.
  • IEP: The Individualized Education Program is the heart of the IDEA's concept for your child's education. The IEP spells out your child's needs and how their performance will be measured, defines and describes how schools must provide those services and creates a metric measuring whether the plan works.

Unfortunately, ARD committees often fall short in assessing the special needs of children, and IEPs may not meet a child's specific needs. We look at both these areas in more depth in future articles and how you can assert your child's rights to an appropriate education.

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