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Your Child with Special Needs at School: Know Your Rights

Middle-and-high-school-parent-teacher-conferences-750x325One of the most difficult situations for you as a parent with a child who has a disability is ensuring that he or she gets the education to which they are entitled. This means that children with special needs have rights that allow them to receive distinct services through the public school system.

The most important thing to remember when advocating for your child is that students with disabilities must have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that contain offers of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), and that they are entitled to obtain their education within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). These rights are guaranteed under federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990).


If a child has a disability, the school district must write an IEP for him or her, which includes its offer of FAPE. This offer of FAPE is a binding contract for services between the school district and the parent. This means that if a school does not provide services agreed upon within the IEP, it’s in violation of the law. When a school district is in violation of the law, it is a compliance issue, and the penalties may involve paying for the student’s legal services, and the district might be required to provide compensatory services to make up for the loss of service.

Least Restrictive Environment

Students with disabilities are also required by law to be allowed education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This means that the district must demonstrate that it has made a concerted effort to deliver services to your child in a classroom setting that is as close to the general education setting as possible. Unless your child has severe medical or physical impairments that require specialized staff, districts should try to include him or her in the general education classroom as much as possible.


IDEA is a federal law that oversees all special education services for children in the United States. Under IDEA, in order for a child to be eligible for special education, their school performance must be adversely affected by one of the conditions below:

  • Specific learning disability (SLD)
  • Other health impairment
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual impairment, including blindness
  • Deafness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Deaf-blindness
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Multiple disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires all educational institutions, other than those operated by religious organizations, to meet the needs of children with physical or psychiatric disorders. The ADA prohibits the denial of educational services, programs or activities to students with disabilities and prohibits discrimination against your child with special needs.
Demanding that your child receive these services is your duty as a parent. You should never feel guilty about being insistent and advocating for your child. You should also not allow school officials to pressure you into remaining quiet. You are your child’s hero, and as such, you must be proactive.
However, the process can be difficult and confusing. If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
Dial (877) 762-0702 or email us at

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