The special education process begins by identifying a student’s learning strengths and needs and continues by calling together “experts”, including you as a parent, who know and understand how to educate the child. These individuals decide what and how the student will learn, and what services and supports are necessary to accomplish these goals.
Special education programs and services are unique in the education system and can allow your child to take positive steps toward successful adult life. Parental participation in this system is not only helpful, it is necessary.
This federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), defines the national requirements for special education services, and provides the foundation for Pennsylvania Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania school code. The IDEA 2004 provides that:
- All children identified as eligible for special education and related services are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
- Special education services must be designed to meet the unique needs of the child and provided in accordance with an individualized education program (IEP).
- Special education services should prepare the child for employment or independent living.
- The rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected.
Does my child have a right to a free and appropriate education (FAPE)?
Every child identified as eligible for special education and related services must receive education services at no cost to the parent. These services can be made available to a child enrolled in preschool, elementary school, secondary school or a charter school, which is considered a local education agency (LEA).
There are many federal and state agencies that have responsibilities for the education of eligible children. Each agency or facility has a specific role and works in cooperation with other agencies.
- U.S. Department of Education reviews and approves Pennsylvania’s special education plan and provides funding to all the states.
- Pennsylvania Department of Education—Bureau of Special Education develops a state plan and distributes funds to local education agencies.
- Intermediate Units and local School Districts develop local plans and provide direct services for the education of special needs children.
What children are eligible for special education?
Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania Special Education regulations defines your child as eligible for special education, if your child has been evaluated by the evaluation team and has one or more of the following disabilities:
- Autism, Deaf-blindness, Deafness, Emotional disturbance, Hearing impairment, Mental retardation, Multiple disabilities, Orthopedic impairment, Other health impairment, Specific learning disability, Speech or language impairment, Traumatic brain injury and Visual impairment including blindness,
- And needs special education as determined by the evaluation team.