Special Education Services Defined

Special education services are mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the IDEA, which guarantees a “free, appropriate public education” to children with disabilities. It also mandates that, to the “maximum extent appropriate,” they be educated with their non-disabled peers in the “least restrictive environment."

IDEA uses the term special education to broadly define educational programs and services designed to serve children with mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral disabilities that interfere with their ability to achieve in the general education classroom.

The term further refers to all the “special” individualized help required by those children whose learning can be improved with additional special services that are not available as a traditional teaching method.

Research indicates that if these special needs are identified early enough, the child benefits greatly from the special services provided to help them achieve. The law provides for identification and intervention with special needs children beginning as early as three years of age.

How Special Education Services Are To Be Delivered

Services may be provided at home, or in special clinics for pre-school age children, and in traditional classrooms. The child should not be removed for services unless they cannot be provided in the regular classroom. When special individualized services are required, the child may leave to receive them, and return to the classroom.

Interventions outside the classroom may be provided by a number of professional service providers including a special education teacher, a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, or other professional as needed.

These services are the ingredients that determine the appropriateness of your child’s special education. All interactions with the child are coordinated with the classroom teacher, and the parent is informed at all stages of the process.

How Eligibility for Special Education Services is Determined

Determination of eligibility begins with a referral from the classroom teacher to a Student Study Team (SST) team comprised of the child’s teacher, the parent, the building administrator and the school psychologist. Others may attend by invitation from the parent.

At this meeting, the team looks at the child’s behavior, his achievement, and any other information to determine how he learns best (learning strengths and weaknesses) and whether he might have a handicapping condition that would benefit from special services.

If the team decides an assessment would provide needed information, the parent is asked to consent to the assessment by signing an assessment plan.

The assessment plan outlines the nature of the assessment the child is to receive including all the tests that will be administered; what they measure and which professional will administer them. When the assessment is completed, the team meets again to review the results.

The Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

If the child is eligible for special services, the team will design an individualized education plan which states the child's learning strengths and weaknesses; and based upon these strengths and weaknesses and present levels of achievement, the team will identify goals and objectives for furture achievement.

The third step in the IEP is to identify special techniques to be used in helping the child to meet these goals and how success is to be measured.

The IEP is reviewed every year, and the child receives a complete reevaluation every three years, and when indicated, the plan is modified, or completely redesigned.

The more knowledgable parents are about the goals and purposes of the Individualized Education Plan, the more success they will have in claiming their rights under the law.

Parent's May Demand or Refuse Special Education Services

www.understanding-learning-disabilities.com/special-education-law.html">Federal law gives full responsibility for the appropriateness of this process to the parents. If the parents agree to the Individualized Education Plan as designed, their signature and the signature of all the team members obligates the school district to provide the child with all the designated services on the plan.

If the special services outlined in the IEP are not available in their local school district, parents have the right to request that their child be transferred to a school where the services are available. Daily expenses for transportation of the child to his new school are free of charge to the child’s parents.

On the other hand, if parents after seeking a private opinion, do not agree that special education is appropriate for their child, they have the right to refuse the recommended services. While parents have these rights, the school remains responsible for providing only those special services that are justified by the child's assessment.

Additional information for empowering yourself regarding special education services is available in our LD Reference Book.

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