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Advocating for Your School-Aged Child

Special Needs Child - Child Advocacy Your child has the right to a free and appropriate public school education. Getting involved in his or her education is among the most important things you can do as your child’s advocate. As you’ll see below, you have a right to be a part of every decision regarding your child’s education, including the process of finding out if your child needs special services. You know your child best, and your input should be considered at every opportunity. In order to make sure that your child with learning disabilities gets the help he or she needs throughout his or her school career, you should familiarize yourself with your child’s rights. These rights are federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Your Child’s Rights in Determining Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services

  • You have the right to request in writing that your child be evaluated to determine if he or she is eligible for special education and related services. This evaluation is more than just a single test. The school must gather information from you, your child’s teacher and others who would be helpful. An assessment of your child must then be conducted in all the areas that may be affected by the suspected disability.
  • If the public school agrees that your child may have a learning disability and may need special help, the school must evaluate your child at no cost to you.
  • Teachers or other professionals can recommend that your child be evaluated, but the school must get your explicit written consent before any part of the evaluation is started.
  • If the public school system refuses to give your child an evaluation, they must explain in writing the reasons for refusal, and must also provide information about how you can challenge their decision.
  • All tests and interviews must be conducted in your child’s native language. The evaluation process cannot discriminate against your child because he or she is not a native English speaker, has a disability or is from a different racial or cultural background.
  • Your child cannot be determined eligible for special education services only because of limited English proficiency or because of lack of instruction in reading or math.
  • You have the right to be a part of the evaluation team that decides what information is needed to determine whether your child is eligible.
  • You have the right to a copy of all evaluation reports and paperwork related to your child.
  • Once you give parental consent to the evaluation, it must occur within a specific timeframe established by the school, which varies, or within 60 days if your state had not designated a timeframe prior to July 1, 2005.

Tags: grade3-8, grade9-12