Educational advocacy, learning disabilities advocacy     Internet Special Education Resources
Special Education & Learning Disabilities Resources: A Nationwide Directory


by Dr. Etta Brown, Educational Psychologist and Special Needs Advocate for Parents and their Children, Oakland, CA
Legal Mandates for the Special Education IEP

The law applies equally to the special education IEP. All public and private schools, receiving public funds for the education of children with disabilities are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This Federal Law defines and governs special needs services, and requires that needed services be outlined in a special document entitled the Individualized Education Plan commonly referred to as the special education IEP.

Definition of Individualized Education Plan
The individualized educational plan (IEP) is a document developed by parents and educators. The law requires that the plan describe how the student learns; how the student best demonstrates that learning; and what teachers and service providers will do to help the student toward better academic achievement.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the student IEP be based solely on the child's identified needs, and not based on pre-existing programs or services available in the district. Whether particular services are available in the district should not be considered when identifying the services a child needs to receive an appropriate education.

Determining Eligibility for Services
Special needs services provided by public funds are called Special Education. In order to receive these "special" services, the law identifies certain criteria for eligibility

. In order to determine eligibility, the school must conduct a full evaluation of a child in all areas of suspected disability noted by the parent or classroom teacher. However, having a disability is not sufficient for eligibility.

When a disability is identified, it must be determined how the disability is preventing the child from learning. Services are designed to minimize the effects of the weakness by teaching to areas of strength. If the child has a visual problem, the IEP might state that information to be learned be put on tape so that he can use his stronger auditory (hearing) skills.

This step helps to identify needed services and answers the question of whether special education is appropriate even if the child is eligible. If these simple modifications can be made to the general education curriculum, there is no need for special education.

Determining the Appropriate Placement
The law that the special education IEP be completed before placement decisions are made so that the child's educational needs determine the services outlined by the IEP. Schools may not develop a student's IEP to fit into a pre-existing program for a particular classification of disability. The IEP is written to fit the student. The placement is chosen to fit the needed services in the IEP.

The goal of the the law is that, to the maximal extent possible, children are to be educated in the same classroom as the child's non-disabled peers in the school nearest the child's home.

Role of the Parents
Parents are crucial participants during the development of the IEP in both public and private schools because they bring a unique perspective based upon their knowledge of, and insight into, the child's developmental history and environmental experiences.

For this reason, the law states that parents must be present and involved in any and all meetings that discuss the identification, evaluation, IEP development and educational placement of their children.

The law grants parents permission to ask questions, dispute points, and request modifications to the IEP along with all other members of the team.

Although teams are required to work toward consensus, school personnel are, ultimately, responsible for ensuring that the student's IEP includes the services that the student needs.

The Power Granted to Parents
It is during the development of the IEP that parents can best wield the power granted by Title IV IDEA to insure that their child receives needed services in an appropriate program.

During this activity, the parent is granted more power than the school. The process cannot continue without the parents signature on the IEP. So the IEP should not be signed until the parent has reviewed it, gotten a second opinion, and made certain that they are satisfied that it meets the needs of their child.

The law requires that the school reevaluate the child every three years, but the parent may ask for a review of the special education IEP at any time that the plan does not seem to be working as planned.

Parental preparation and participation will guarantee the child an appropriate education with all the latest modifications and accommodations to insure that he is not only successful in achieving his IEP goals for academic achievement, but that he is prepared to go on to college, or to become employed after graduation from high school.

The IEP should state these additional goals and describe how special education will help the child to achieve them.

Support with Parent Advocacy
Readers and book reviewers state that every parent should have a copy of the parent guide Learning Disabilities, Understanding the Problem, Managing the Challenges before beginning this process.

The skillful techniques for interacting with the school will be very helpful in claiming ones rights under the law.

If your child needs special services not provided by your school district, then the school district, at no cost to parents, has to transport the child to a location where the services are provided at no cost to the parent.

Some students have been placed out of state at costs up to $100,000 per year per child. A parent will need an attorney, lots of money and some pull to make that happen, but some parents have accomplished it.

Parents just need to know their rights and learn how to advocate for them. The only challenge will be to justify the need. The required help is available here.

Etta Brown, author of LEARNING DISABILITIES, Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges, received her undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University with a major in Dental Hygiene Education and the Masters in Education degree from South Carolina State University with a major in Special Education. The Educational Specialist Degree was conferred at Kent State University with studies in School Administration, and a major in School Psychology.

Dr. Brown continues to reach out to parents and children by fax, phone and email, as a Licensed Educational Psychology providing advocacy services to parents. if you are in an IEP or other meeting at school and you need immediate reinforcements you can call us at 510 652-6831.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


Educational advocacy, learning disabilities advocacy     Return to ISER Home