September 29, 2017

The Right to Special Education: IDEA

by Brian Garvine, Law Office of Brian M. Garvine, LLC

When your child is born with a disability, it’s hard to know the steps to take to get them the right education. To fix this issue, The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was enacted in 1975. IDEA ensures education services for children from birth through high school graduation or age 21, whichever occurs first.

IDEA covers learning disabilities like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Auditory Processing Disorder. It also covers Autism, emotional disturbance, speech or language impairment, visual impairment including blindness, deafness and traumatic brain injury, and orthopedic impairment. What IDEA will specifically cover depends upon the specific impairment.

If you suspect your child may be eligible, schools will set up a series of at least two meetings, or a Multi-Factored Evaluation (MFE), most often led by their district’s psychologist. The first meeting is the initial planning meeting; the second is the actual MFE. The MFE will focus upon any of the disabilities discovered in the planning meeting.

Before conducting the MFE, a school can provide interventions as long as doing so does not delay completion of full evaluation of the child. Examples of interventions are screening, assessment, monitoring of student progress, counseling, consultation and access to library media and information technology programs.

After providing interventions, the school will determine whether the child should receive an MFE. If the school decides not to conduct an MFE, the parent must be given notice of the reasons why an MFE will not be provided as well as details regarding the parents’ right to appeal the school’s decision not to conduct an MFE. Parents also have the opportunity to participate in any meeting with the school for the purposes of determining if a child is eligible for special education.

If the parents disagree with the MFE results, they can pursue an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE). Parents can choose the IEE evaluator as long as the evaluator meets the school’s criteria for IEE’s. The school must either pay for the IEE or file for an impartial due process hearing and prove that its MFE evaluation was appropriate.

Being an advocate for your child and ensuring they get the proper services is of the upmost importance, but if the school wins the hearing, you’re responsible for the cost of the IEE. After the child’s initial evaluation for special education, the child will be re-evaluated to determine if the child continues to need special education. The re-evaluation will occur every three years or more frequently if necessary.

For more information on IDEA and how it may impact your family, visit https://sites.ed.gov/idea/.