Education Law

Introduction to Special Education Programs

"Special education" is a broad term that covers services for students who fall outside the mainstream in some way - gifted students as well as those who suffer from physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Special education programs and courses are offered throughout the public school system. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the main federal statute authorizing federal aid for the education of children with disabilities. It ensures that states receiving federal funds provide students with disabilities with a free and appropriate public education. It also details parental rights.

Special Education Is Available for Gifted Students

If your child seems to catch on quicker than others and is excelling in certain areas with minimal effort, your child may qualify for a special education program for gifted students. These are commonly called highly gifted and talented (HGT) programs. Your local school district should have an evaluation process in place that helps identify which students may benefit from more advanced academic curricula. If your child is identified as a gifted student, a different learning environment may be advantageous. Such programs allow your child to learn with other gifted students, which facilitates more in-depth learning and at a faster pace.

Physical Disabilities Should Be Severe Before Utilizing Special Education

If your child uses a wheelchair, schools cannot limit your child's course selection merely because some classes are offered on high floors that aren't serviced by an elevator. Though just one example, federal law eliminates this type of discrimination by forcing schools to build ramps, elevators, and other devices to allow all students to access to all classes. Federal law also requires that school districts provide physically disabled students with the option of an alternative school for special education.

Emotional and Intellectual Disabilities

Special education programs are available for non-physical disabilities as well. Federal law requires state public school systems to provide all children with an education of equal quality, regardless of disability. This includes children with learning disabilities who need instruction at a slower pace, children with emotional disabilities who are unable to thrive in a traditional classroom setting, and children with most other developmental problems.

You Can Get Involved in the IEP Process

Whenever special education is necessary for a child, the school must design an individualized education program (IEP) for the child's specific needs. You have the right to oversee and have direct involvement in drafting the IEP for your child. Generally, the IEP process includes several meetings between the parents, school officials, and school specialists to reach an agreement on what to include in the IEP. The result is a written document that outlines the program and the goals it sets to accomplish. The IEP must be reviewed periodically.

An Education Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding the duty of the government to provide education for children with special needs is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an education lawyer.

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