According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 7.0 million students receiving services in 2018 under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA). This is equivalent to 14% of the total public school enrollment.
When your child receives special needs education, you’re always looking for ways to improve their education. You want the child to grow academically, socially, and emotionally to become a self-sufficient adult.
Despite the challenges, it is important to maintain a positive outlook. Your overall attitude has an impact on your child’s confidence in being able to succeed. You are your child’s best advocate, and we are going to show you some options for making sure they receive the best education possible.
The Role of a Special Needs Parent
Your job as the parent of a special needs child is to teach your child how to overcome their challenges. Your child needs your support and encouragement to build their self-confidence in their ability to be successful.
Always watch for new information on special education requirements. Teachers, doctors, psychologists, and books offer guidance. Your job as a parent is to make sure those tools are applied in a way that compliments your child’s personality and abilities.
Be an advocate for your child. If you see your child is struggling you need to speak up. Be polite but firm. Your input can have a huge impact on whether your child fails or succeeds.
Something as minor as a slight change in the way your child is being taught can make or break the outcome. School staff may have made a change in your child’s school day that is having a negative impact on the child socially and academically.
Your child is influenced by your conduct. If you portray a feeling of hopelessness, then the child will feel there is no point in trying. If you take a positive approach to the child’s ability to learn, they will feel positive about school.
Your child has a disability, but that is only one small portion of who they are as a person. Focus on what your child is good at and concentrate on their strengths.
By nurturing those activities your child is good at, the child will feel positive about themselves. That success will have a positive impact on all aspects of their life.
Determine How Your Child Learns Best
Each person has their own learning style, and your special needs child is no different. They may have difficulty reading but be quick to grasp concepts with hands-on learning. They may not be able to follow verbal instructions but can watch and copy the actions of another.
If your child struggles during social interactions, it may be easier for them to learn using programs on an electronic device. Figure out how your child learns easiest and work with the school on providing instruction in that manner will help the child to succeed.
Special Needs Education
It became a requirement for schools to provide special education programs to students in 1975. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that all eligible children 3-21 years old receive a free and appropriate public education.
Determining A Child’s Eligibility for Special Education Services
A child’s eligibility is determined by a professional evaluation. The evaluation must show that the child has a disability that negatively impacts their ability to learn.
The school is then obligated to provide special education services to the child. This must be done in the least restrictive environment possible.
To qualify for special education the child must have a documented disability covered by IDEA. That disability prevents the child from accessing the general education curriculum.
Access means that the child’s disability creates an educational barrier. Because of the barrier, the child is unable to succeed in school. The school is required to create a positive learning environment so the child can succeed.
The goal is to provide the child with the extra assistance required for them to meet academic goals. This assistance is to be done in a way that allows the child to interact with other non-special needs children as often as possible.
The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act made schools accountable for the academic success of all students. Every state is required to conduct regular assessments of each student’s performance. The Act also provides states with incentives to demonstrate progress in their special needs children.
Individualized Educational Plan
If your child has a learning disability, the school is required by law to develop an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This plan will be created during a joint meeting held at the school. You as a parent will be invited to attend.
The IEP Meeting
The IEP meeting will be conducted jointly with your child’s teachers, social workers, and any other person involved in their education. The IEP will establish special accommodations that are needed for your child to succeed in school.
This may include accommodations in a standard classroom. It can also mean placing your child in a special education classroom. The child may require 100% special needs instruction, or they may be educated through a blend of mainstream and special education.
Each child is different. One child may be strong in one subject such as math but be language-arts disabled. Another child may lack cognitive processing but be strong in art and music.
That is where the schedule laid out in the IEP is important. That educational plan provides the information the school staff will use to help your child learn. It is designed to fit your child’s individual needs and abilities.
Be a good listener when meeting with the child’s teachers and other educational professionals. If you do not understand what they are saying, ask for clarification. If you have uncovered possible ways to improve the child’s in-school experience, share it with the professionals.
Putting it in Writing
The goal for everyone is to develop a program that allows your child to have a successful educational experience. The educational plan developed will be put into writing.
The plan will include the child’s current academic status, goals, and objectives. It will list any special instructional accommodations your child needs. It will include any other information that will help with the child’s success in school.
You will receive a copy of your child’s IEP. Keep this handy for reference in case your child’s teacher does not follow the agreed-upon protocol.
Students with special education needs are protected when attending colleges and universities. Both IDEA of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provide this protection. Postsecondary educational facilities are required to make suitable academic adjustments for students with special needs.
If Your Child’s Legal Rights Are Being Violated
If you feel the rights of your special needs child are not being met, you need to act promptly to ensure the child receives the education they deserve. This is where a special education attorney can help you navigate through the law to make sure public schools and postsecondary institutions are meeting their legal obligation.
A special education lawyer will be able to review your situation, provide suggestions, and take appropriate legal action. This may include contacting the school that is in violation or filing a civil suit if necessary. Often a call from an attorney is all that is needed to resolve a legal matter.
Advocate for Your Child
You are your child’s best educational advocate. If you have any questions about your child’s special needs education check out our other blogs here for additional information. If you feel your child’s educational means are not being met in accordance with the law, contact a special needs attorney for assistance.