Understanding the Special Education System
Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities. According the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act–a federal law known as IDEA–a student that is eligible for special education is entitled to the same rights as typically developing students which is a free, appropriate, public education frequently referred to as FAPE.
Special Education is driven by state and federal laws which incorporate methodologies and processes that must be followed by parents, school districts, and relative service agencies. Special education can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals or institutions, or in other settings. This definition of special education comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Public Law 105-17.
Over 6.5 million children ages 6 through 21 receive special education and related services each year in the United States. Each of these children receives instruction that is specially designed to:
1. meet the child's unique needs (that result from having a disability); and
2. help the child learn the information and skills that other children are learning.
It is important to understand how your child's disability affects his or her ability to learn. Federal law says that a child must derive meaningful education benefits in order for the program and/or services to be appropriate. Therefore, you must understand your child's strengths and weaknesses to determine what your child needs.
Navigating the Special Education System
Navigating through the maze of special education law, researching and implementing effective autism interventions, as well as managing relationships with service professionals and school district personnel can be a daunting, endless responsibility.
The Autism Education Network understands that knowledge is power, when it comes to advocating and negotiating a special education plan for your child. Therefore, we provide detailed information on everything from your child's evaluation and eligibility for special education services to Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP) and Individual Education Plans (IEP) which are broken down in two sections:
Children under Three
Children over Three
State regional centers handle the evaluation and educational services for children under three with Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP).
Once a child turns three, the school districts take over children with autism 's service needs by developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
The transition from the IFSP to the IEP is rarely a smooth one, as many school districts are poorly equipped to meet the educational needs of children with autism . Unfortunately, parents must shoulder the responsibility of understanding what an appropriate comprehensive program looks like and work proactively with school districts and local service agencies to ensure the education plan meets the unique needs of their child.