Parents of a special needs child often want to know what the legal requirements are to get their child qualified for services from a public school, what services are available, and how to access them. Your child deserves the best education the school district can provide. By law, services are available to students who need a modification or a special service to achieve a superb education. To qualify as a special needs student, the student must fall under one of two statutes that cover special needs children.
To qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, your child must have a disability that is actually listed in the statute. There is a relatively extensive list of disabilities that qualify. In addition to having one of those listed disabilities, it has to cause the child to need special education services.
Section 504 is very different. It covers a child with any disability. The child merely has to show that the disability has a substantial impact on a major life activity. It’s a very different kind of a test. A child who has problems walking and uses a wheelchair qualifies because they have a disability that impacts a major life activity. A child with ADHD has a learning disability, which impacts a major life activity. A peanut allergy has a substantial impact on life itself. That child would qualify under Section 504.
Parents of a special needs child often don’t understand the large gamut of services that are available to them from a public school. Every service that your child is entitled to has to be based on a need. Services can cost school districts a lot of money, so they are not going to automatically offer services that will benefit your child. You must establish that the child needs it. There is no limit to the services available for your child if you can demonstrate evidence of a need.
For example, your child has a right for the necessary modifications to the content, delivery, and methodology of the curriculum. These are academic needs. Sometimes this means having a smaller classroom, a simple adjustment to the activities in an inclusion class, or a one-on-one aid. In every situation, a need must be established. Schools are willing to work towards a positive outcome that will benefit your child and they have staff and resources available to accommodate most academic needs.
In addition to those kinds of services, the child is also entitled to related services. The simplest one is free transportation. If your child can’t get to school like other children, the district is required to provide free transportation. Other related services may include occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech services. By law, these services are a right to every special needs child but it is still the burden of the parent to prove a need for the services.
Your child may receive technology services, which can range from something as low-tech as a thick pencil because of grip and motor skill issues to a highly sophisticated computer program that the child might need to help read, write, or understand some of the material. When you are considering services your child needs, your options are not limited. If the school district says that they do not have a service your child needs, it is most likely not true. The state offers resources for every need a child may have and though your school does not immediately have a remedy to the problem, they are responsible for getting it. If you can establish the need, the district is required to provide it.
If you have any questions about your child’s needs and you’re thinking about particular services, there are strategies to how you can maximize the number of services your child can receive. You need to speak to a professional who knows the process and understands how to present it to the school district. Experienced education attorneys at Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C. are ready to assist you in getting all the necessary services your child needs. If you have any questions and would like a consultation, please contact us as soon as possible.