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Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities

Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities

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Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities

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  1. Legal Rights ofChildren with Disabilities Special Education Early Intervention Services

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. Autistic Seriously emotionally disabled Deaf-Blind Hearing impaired Multi-handicapped 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

  5. “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

  6. 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)

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. “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

  17. 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?

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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)

  21. 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)

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. Referral to legal team • Fill out referral form http://law.duke.edu/partnershipforchildren/referrals.php • Fax to Duke Clinic