In 1975, the United States Congress passed landmark legislation that ensures all children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. That law, currently known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), contains several important requirements, including:
•Students with educational disabilities (ages 3-21) be identified and receive individualized education programs and services designed to meet their unique needs; and be provided access to general education curriculum.
•Students are entitled to receive these services in the Least Restrictive Environment, meaning to the maximum extent appropriate, they will be educated in regular classes with their non-disabled peers.
•Services are provided at no cost to their parents; and,
•Parents must be afforded certain procedural safeguards to ensure they are participants in the planning of their children’s programs.
Special Education means “specially designed instruction” to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. New Hampshire has a law (RSA 186-C), which closely mirrors and supports the IDEA and identifies ways in which New Hampshire will implement the Federal Law.
Who is Eligible for Special Education
Not everyone who has learning difficulties receives special education. It must be decided that he or she needs it. There are 6 steps to the special education process in New Hampshire.
1. Referral to the school team, where they decide what next steps need to be taken
2. Evaluation and assessment to determine the strengths and weakness and the type of disability a child has, and how it impacts the childĖs learning and involvement in curriculum.
3. Determination by a team of people, including the parents, that the child meets both criteria:
a) The child has an educational disability which fits one of the 13 categories and
b) The child requires or needs special education because of that disability.
4. Once a student has been determined by the team to be eligible to receive special education, the team then creates an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
5. Placement, or where the services will be implemented is decided. The child must be educated with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.
6. The IEP is monitored and progress is reviewed.
The team of people making decisions about special education services is called the IEP Team. Certain people must be in attendance, including:
•the child’s regular education teacher,
•a special education teacher,
•a representative of the school district,
Parents are very important members of this team. They assist the school professionals in identifying the tests or evaluations to be given. They attend meetings where the test results are explained and they take part in the decision of whether their child is entitled to special education. When it is determined that a child requires special education, parents help to identify the educational goals that their child will achieve in a year’s time, and where the services will be done. In making this decision, the IEP Team has an obligation to review a continuum of services to ensure that students are being educated in the least restrictive environment, with their non-disabled peers.
During the special education process, parents are asked to sign documents indicating their consent. They are given “Procedural Safeguards” which detail all the rights given to parents of children with disabilities. Services can only be started (or changed) with parents’ consent. Parents receive information about the progress their child is making toward the IEP goals, during the school year.
For More Information:
Whenever parents have questions or concerns about special education or their child, they can go to the teacher, the special education teacher, the district special education director or coordinator or the principal for assistance.