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Children with disabilities have a right to...

posted Apr 1, 2013, 8:05 AM by Brenda Guynes

Children with disabilities have a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Children differ in mental abilities, sensory development, physical traits, emotional or social behaviors, or communication skills. Some may require modification to their school program or special education and related services in order to benefit from their schooling, parents and schools should work together to accomplish this.

Congress recognized that children with disabilities have special needs and passed what is now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975. That law provided that children with disabilities must receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The law has since been reauthorized six times and this booklet reflects the latest changes made by Congress in 2004. Missouri House Bill 474 and later legislation make it the law of the state to provide special education services, sufficient to meet the needs of all children with eligible disabilities, from the child’s 3rd birthday to age 21, at no cost to the parent.

The major purpose of the IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the supports and services they need to learn and progress in their schoolwork. It requires that each child receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). As the parent of a child with a disability, you will participate in many meetings, working alongside school personnel in planning the special educational services and supports that your child needs.

Should you have questions about your child’s special education services, I recommend you first contact your local school district and speak with your child’s teacher(s), principal or the district’s Director of Special Education. In addition, there are a number of other resources in Missouri including MPACT (the Parent Training and Information Center) and staff of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Parents are their children’s first teachers. Parents are the only lifelong advocate for their child. You are an expert on your child. You observe your child in all of the various environments in which he or she functions over the span of his or her childhood. Parents and educators work as partners to determine the most appropriate education for each child when a child is eligible for special education services. For parents to be effective partners on this team, they must know the special education process. Research has shown that parents’ participation in their child’s education is important to the child. Your involvement makes a difference.