What is Special Education?
Special Education is probably not what most people suppose it to be. It is not a "place" or a "special room" where students with severe disabilities are isolated from the rest of the school. It is not, or should not be, a "stigma". Special Education is a means of addressing and remediating a disability in a child. Most children with special needs attend classes with students in the general education population. These children with disabilities receive services and/or adaptive equipment that allow them to function in the mainstream of the school population and later, in the world at large.
Who Qualifies for Services?
Special Education has specific categories of disabilities. A student must fit into one of the categories AND there must be an educational need. Under the regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), a student is considered disabled if he/she:
has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity,
has a record of such an impairment, or
is regarded as having such an impairment.
A ‘‘major life activity’’ is considered any daily activity that people can perform with little or no difficulty such as breathing, walking, seeing, and learning. A student is considered substantially limited in a major life activity if s/he is unable to perform the activity or is significantly restricted in performing it.
What are the Categories?
Basically, a student may receive services under IDEIA (or IDEA – special education) if he or she has a disability that belongs to one of these groups:
Other Health Impaired (including ADD and ADHD)
Pervasive Developmentally Delayed or Autistic
Speech and/or Language Impaired
Traumatic Brain Injury
Click a category for a brief description of each.
What Services are Available?
Your child should be able to receive whatever services are necessary to address the needs of the child for success in school and in the world beyond school. It is the Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee (ARD) or Individual Education Plan Committee (IEP) that determines the needs of the child. The parent is a member of this committee.
How Do I Request Services?
In writing, you should ask the school for the testing you believe your child needs. Be specific, state the problems you see and how those problems relate to learning. For example, you could write, "My son, John Doe, does not seem to understand what he is reading. I am requesting that the school test John for Special Education services," or "My son, John Doe, seems to be very upset lately. His behavior has been difficult to control at home and at school. I am requesting educational and psychological testing for my son." Make sure you have a date on the letter. Send the letter by certified mail OR hand carry the letter to the office. Get a written receipt and keep a copy. Make sure someone signs that the school received the request and on what day it was received.
Is it My Responsibility to Tell the School that my Son Has a Disability?
No, it is not your responsibility. The school is charged with identifying children who have disabilities. However, the schools are becoming larger and larger. It is becoming easier for children to "slip through the cracks." If you notice a problem, you should tell the school. You can file a Due Process Hearing Request for the school's failure to identify.
What if my Child Fails to Qualify?
Your child may still qualify for accommodations under Section 504 or you have the right to file for a Due Process Hearing, an administrative hearing that gives you the opportunity to offer evidence demonstrating that your child requires services.
All information contained within this web site is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists from the use of this web site, and an attorney-client relationship may only be established by contracting directly with Karen Dalglish Seal, Attorney at Law. Intellectual property within this Website are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Karen Dalglish Seal. Licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
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