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Advocating for your child's special educational needs

If you are the parent of a special needs child, you almost certainly understand that you are your child’s greatest advocate. You have likely been advocating for his or her special needs medically, financially and socially for some time now. But depending on your child’s unique circumstances, you may not yet have had to advocate on his or her behalf in an educational context.

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special needs students are guaranteed certain rights under the law. In particular, special needs children are granted the right to certain educational opportunities and accommodations that fit their unique circumstances.

Each special needs child should have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) governing the progress of his or her education. If your child is new to the public school system, you may be unfamiliar with this process. In addition, if your school has failed to create an appropriate IEP for your child, you may need to take action in order to ensure that your child’s educational rights are respected.

It is helpful to learn about your child’s rights and your rights as a parent before you begin the IEP creation process. That way, if something does not look or feel right, you will have an objective frame of reference on which to base your reactions. In addition, staying organized and filing away all relevant documentation will help tremendously should you ever need to challenge the way that your child’s education is progressing.

If you are either new to special needs education or are concerned that your child is being denied educational rights due him or her under the law, please consult an experienced educational law attorney. You may be your child’s greatest advocate, but even the best advocates can benefit from expert help from time to time.

Source: Daily Pilot, “Commentary: Parents of special-needs students must be proactive,” Miranda K. Andersen, Oct. 23, 2013

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