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Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities. Special Education Early Intervention Services. Special Education. Federal and state laws provide certain services, free of charge, to preschool and school-age children with disabilities Ages 3 – 21

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legal rights of children with disabilities

Legal Rights ofChildren with Disabilities

Special Education

Early Intervention Services

special education
Special Education
  • Federal and state laws provide certain services, free of charge, to preschool and school-age children with disabilities
    • Ages 3 – 21
    • Coordinated through Exceptional Children’s Division in each public school district
      • Durham: 919-560-3774
    • Begins with free, multidisciplinary evaluation within 90 days of referral
    • Eligible children qualify for an IEP – Individualized Education Program
special education1
Special Education
  • Eligibility
    • Child must have a disability that interferes with educational progress
    • As a result of the disability, the child must need special education (i.e., specialized instruction and related services)
    • Disability must fit in one of the 13 eligibility categories
special education categories

Seriously emotionally disabled


Hearing impaired


Intellectually disabled

Orthopedically impaired

Developmentally delayed (up to age 8)

Other health impaired (includes ADHD)

Specific learning disabled (includes dyslexia)

Speech/language disabled

Traumatic brain injured

Visually Impaired

Special Education Categories
other health impaired
“Other health impaired”
  • A disability category that includes any –
    • Chronic or acute health problem that
    • Results in limited strength, vitality, or alertness OR a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, and
    • Adversely affects a child’s educational performance
      • Examples: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, Tourette syndrome
    • A medical evaluation is needed for determination of eligibility for this category
the basic promise
The Basic Promise
  • All children with disabilities are entitled to --
    • A “free, appropriate, public education”
    • In the “least restrictive environment”
    • Pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP)
what is a fape
What is a “FAPE”?
  • A “free, appropriate public education” is
    • Special education (i.e., specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of the child); and
    • related services (such as transportation and specialized therapies)

that allow the child to make reasonable educational progress

-- in academics, socialization, adaptive skills, language and communication, and behavior

what is the least restrictive environment
What is the “least restrictive environment”?
  • The LRE is the setting in which children with disabilities may be educated with typical children to the maximum extentpossible
what is an iep
What is an IEP?
  • IEP is “blueprint” for the child’s special education
    • Contains annual goals
    • Specifies how much/what kind of special education student will get
    • Specifies the setting in which the services will be delivered
    • Specifies accommodations
  • IEP must be written by a team of persons knowledgeable about the child and the child’s needs, including parents
  • IEP must be revised at least once a year
the special education process
The Special Education Process
  • Child must be “referred” to be evaluated for possible special education services
  • Referral: in writing, dated, addressed to principal, state reason for referral in terms of lack of educational performance
  • Child can be referred by the parent or an educator
  • If a medical provider sends a letter of concern, the school district has 30 days to decide whether to move forward with a referral
  • The parents must agree for the evaluation to proceed
the special education process1
The Special Education Process
  • Initial evaluation is usually conducted by a school psychologist
  • Parent may wish to submit information from treating physician to supplement evaluation
  • “IEP Team” -- parent & relevant school personnel – make decisions about eligibility and child’s individualized education program
special education process
Special Education Process
  • Parents have the right to challenge decisions of the IEP team
    • Eligibility
    • Amount & duration of services
    • Placement in LRE
    • Discipline
  • Legal team can represent parents in IEP disputes
case examples
Case examples
    • Jeremy – age 9 – fourth grade
    • average intelligence
    • Asperger’s syndrome
    • regular behavioral problems; “meltdowns”
    • Can function in a regular classroom with an aide available to interpret for him, calm him
    • New classroom – no aide
    • He spirals down, both behavior and academic performance worsen
  • Jeremy has a legal problem: he is not getting appropriate services in school that allow him to make educational progress. Advocacy can help him get the classroom aide that will allow him to make progress.
case examples1
Case examples
    • Denise, age 13,
    • severely visually impaired

secondary to albinism

    • Been in special ed since kindergarten
    • Academic level is 1st-2nd grade level, and has been for the last several years; she can barely read or do even elementary math
  • Denise has a legal problem. She needs new evaluations to determine why she isn’t learning, and specialized services to allow her to make reasonable academic progress
what s a 504 plan
What’s a “504 Plan”?
  • A plan for students with disabilities that don’t qualify for special education
    • Child doesn’t need “specialized instruction”
    • Child does need accommodations in regular classroom and for testing, such as --
      • Preferential seating
      • Testing in separate room
      • Accommodations for physical disabilities
504 plans
“504 Plans”
  • Based on federal anti-discrimination law
  • Guarantees students full access to the educational facilities and programs
  • Tend to be less formal and less structured than IEPs
special education screening questions
Special Education Screening Questions
  • Watch for children with—
    • Autism, ADHD, mental retardation, learning disabilities, depression, bi-polar disorder, communication difficulties, other disabilities
  • ASK –
    • Is your child making good progress in school and passing End-of-Grade tests?
    • Does your child have an IEP or 504 Plan?
    • Have you had any trouble getting your child appropriate services in school?
    • Does your child have any behavior problems at school?
referral to legal team
Referral to legal team
  • Child with disability has not been evaluated for special education (note especially pre-school children, ages 3-5)
  • Child’s parent expresses concerns about
    • Lack of educational progress
    • Lack of, or inappropriate, special education services
    • Frequent suspensions from school
referral to legal team1
Referral to legal team
  • Lawyers can --
    • Provide advice
    • Negotiate with school personnel
    • Accompany parents to IEP meetings
    • Represent parents in dispute resolution forums
      • Mediation
      • Administrative hearings
  • Can achieve goals such as:
    • different classroom placement;
    • behavior intervention services;
    • additional OT, Speech services, PT;
    • reversal of suspensions;
    • specialized reading instruction;
    • modification of testing setting
early intervention services
Early intervention services
  • Federal and state laws provide certain services, free of charge, to infants and toddlers with disabilities
    • Birth to age 3
    • Begins with free, multidisciplinary evaluation within 45 days of referral
    • Coordinated through Children’s Developmental Services Agency
      • 919-560-5600 in Durham
    • Eligible children qualify for an IFSP – Individualized Family Service Plan
    • Child Service Coordinator will help family access array of services (which may involve fees)
early intervention services1
Early intervention services
  • Eligibility
    • Developmental delay
      • Cognitive development
      • Physical development
      • Communication development
      • Social-emotional development
      • Adaptive development
    • 2.0 standard deviations below the mean on one or 1.5 SD below on two; or
    • 30% delay on one, or 25% delay on two (when scores are in months)
early intervention services2
Early intervention services
  • Eligibility
    • “Established Conditions”
      • Congenital anomaly (fragile X, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome)
      • Congenital infections
      • Autism
      • Attachment disorder
      • Hearing loss (permanent)
      • Visual impairment (not correctable)
      • Neurologic disease (Spina Bifida, CP, epilepsy, Microcephaly)
      • Neonatal conditions
early intervention services3
Early intervention services
  • Legal problems are rare
  • Parents have right to challenge decision regarding timely evaluation, eligibility, or services offered through the IFSP
  • Parents can be assisted by lawyer in mediation or administrative hearing process to challenge decisions
early intervention services4
Early intervention services
  • Screening questions
    • For parents of child with developmental delay or one of established conditions –
      • Have you been to Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA)? (115 Market St. downtown Durham)
      • Do you have an Individualized Family

Service Plan (IFSP)?

      • Is your child getting services (therapies, assistive technologies, audiology, family training, social work, etc.)
    • If answers suggest problems, refer to legal team
referral to legal team2
Referral to legal team
  • Fill out referral form

  • Fax to Duke Clinic