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May 7th, 2015

Being Aware of Educational Rights for Children

Children of all abilities are entitled to an education that will help them prosper. For some children this includes extensive evaluations and meetings that lead to participation in special education and other educational services. For any parent, it is helpful to know your rights to advocate for your child’s educational needs.

The State of California and the federal government take extensive steps to provide an educational process suitable for children with special needs. “Special education” is, under State and federal law, specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a recognized disability.

More specifically, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) ensures that a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) is available to children with such disabilities. The IDEA emphasizes that an appropriate FAPE includes special education and related services crafted to meet a child’s unique needs and to prepare the child for further education, independent living, and employment.  IDEA protects the rights of children with disabilities, and the rights of their parents.

IDEA recognizes 12 categories of disabilities, including: speech and language impairments; hearing impairments; visual impairments; Autism; health impairments (e.g., ADHD); and specific learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia). To determine if a child has a disability requiring protections under IDEA, a school district performs an evaluation employing an assortment of assessment tools and strategies to obtain relevant developmental, functional, and academic information. Importantly, such evaluations can be requested by the child’s parent and not just by a state or local educational agency.

If a student is determined to be a “child with a disability” requiring services to meet their unique needs, then an individualized education program, or “IEP,” is developed by qualified professionals, and the parents, setting forth the child’s FAPE. When developing the IEP, the IEP team must consider the child’s strengths, the parent’s concerns for improving the child’s education, the results of the most current evaluations, and, finally, the developmental, functional, and academic needs of the child. Legal assistance can be crucial to ensure that an IEP not only contains the required information, but also provides for the services a child needs to prosper.

– Eric Hirschberg

(805) 659-6800 ext. 238


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