What is special education?
Special education is specially designed instruction (SDI), at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. It can include instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings, and instruction in physical education. Special education may include speech-language pathology services, occupational therapy, physical therapy or any other related service, travel training, and vocational education.
What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
IDEA is the law that outlines rights and regulations for students with disabilities in the U.S. who require special education. Under the IDEA, all children with disabilities are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least-Restrictive Environment (LRE), and some are entitled to Early Intervention (EI) and Extended School Year (ESY). The law specifies how schools must provide or deny services, and how parents can fight school districts for them.
The two parts of IDEA which parents should be most concerned about are IDEA Part B and IDEA part C. IDEA Part B is the part of the law which governs special education services for students ages 3 to 22. For school-aged children with disabilities (including preschoolers), Part B is the foundation upon which special education and related services rest. IDEA Part C is the part of the law which governs special education services for students ages 0 to 2. Part C (The Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities) is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
Who gets special education?
Students are eligible for special education services if their learning is impacted by a disability. There are 13 disability categories: Autism, Other Health Impairments (OHI), Mental Retardation, Emotional Disturbance, Deafness, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment, Deaf-Blindness, Specific Learning Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Speech or Language Impairment or Traumatic Brain Injury.
Students are evaluated in all areas of suspected disability which can include health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status and motor abilities. Eligibility for special education services is determined based on the results of the evaluation.
What is a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?
A free appropriate public education (FAPE) must be available to all children residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21. Each State must ensure that the obligation to make FAPE available to each eligible child residing in the State begins no later than the child’s third birthday and an IEP or an IFSP is in effect for the child by that date.
FAPE means that special education and related services are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to the parent or guardian. Children with disabilities are provided modifications, accommodations, and support services under their Individual Education Plans (IEP) which allow them to have access to and benefit from instruction so they can meet the standards of the State Education Authority. Additionally, the district must provide a program that complies with the procedural requirements of IDEA, addresses the child’s unique needs as identified by evaluations, observation, and the child’s educational team and is coordinated to ensure the child is able to make adequate progress in the educational setting. FAPE also requires that the quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities be equal to those provided to non-disabled students. The student with a disability must have access to nonacademic and extracurricular activities equal to those provided to non-disabled peers.
What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement for each child with a disability which outlines the specially designed instruction, services, goals, accommodations, modifications and transition services a students program will entail. The information, goals and services within the IEP are based on the results of the evaluation which determined eligibility or the results of a re-evaluation.
The IEP is created through the collaborative efforts of the IEP team which includes the parents of the student, regular education teacher(s), special education teacher(s), administrative designee, someone who can interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation results, any other knowledgeable person requested by the parents or school, and the student, if appropriate.
What is Special Designed Instruction (SDI)?
Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of the student, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the student that result from their disability. The SDI must also ensure access of the student to the general curriculum, so they can meet the educational standards which apply to all students.
What are Related Services?
Related services means transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. The services available include transportation, audiology, speech-language pathology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation services, counseling services, medical services, health and nurse services, social work services, and parent counseling and training.
What is the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)?
The LRE provision of special education law ensures that to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled. Additionally, special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
All public schools must have a continuum of placements available to suit the needs of each student with a disability who receives special education services. The continuum must include instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions. Placement is determined by the IEP team based on the results of the evaluation and the educational needs of the student.