Special Education Parent & Student Rights

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Special education students and their parents have unique needs. This lesson will explore the rights of special needs students and their parents and will end with a short quiz to see what you have learned.

What Is Special Education?

Special education modifies traditional teaching methods and materials to meet the needs of students with special needs. Perhaps you've known someone with a disability that required special education. Well, Janie is a seventh grade student with a hearing impairment. A hearing impairment is a disability. A disability is a physical or mental issue that impairs normal functioning. For Janie, following along and participating in her classroom might be challenging as a result of her hearing impairment. She might need extra assistance to do so and by law, she is entitled to it.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA) is a revised version of the original Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) of 1975, which mandated that special needs students are entitled to receive a free and appropriate education. In other words, accommodations and modifications must be provided to special needs students in schools depending on the unique needs of the student.

Accommodations are devices or methods used to support the unique needs of disabled individuals. A hearing aid is an example of an accommodation that might be useful to Janie in the classroom. Modifications are changes in the level or method of instruction that a child receives as a result of his or her specific disability. For example, an appropriate modification for Janie might include one-on-one instruction.

A Hearing Aid is an example of an accommodation
hearing aid

Parent and Student Rights

We mentioned that Janie is entitled to special education as a result of her disability. This is her right. IDEA was designed and put into place to protect the rights of those with disabilities and to protect the rights of people who care for them.

IDEA includes the following specific tenets that guarantee the right to special education and protect students and their caregivers:

1. To identify students in need of special education

Janie's disability may not have been identified until she entered school. Hearing assessments at school would likely call attention to her special needs.

2. To involve parents or guardians in the decision-making for the education of the student

For students like Janie, it is important to have parental involvement in making decisions for her educational needs. This stipulation protects the rights of the parents of special needs students.

Involving Parents In Decision-Making for the Education of Special Needs Students is Essential
parent teacher meeting

3. To assess student needs without discrimination

If Janie were punished for her disability or if she did not receive the same opportunities that other students receive, she would be the victim of discrimination. IDEA protects special needs students and their parents against discrimination.

4. To formulate an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for every special needs student

IEPs are plans for the education of the student based on his or her unique needs. Janie's IEP will lay out a set plan for her education and will include specifics on necessary accommodations or modifications.

5. To educate the child according to research-based practices

Let's say Janie has a teacher that comes up with a new method of teaching hearing impaired students. The teacher would not be permitted to use that method unless it was backed by research demonstrating its effectiveness. Again, this protects special needs students.

6. To provide educational services and support is a way that does not restrict the freedom, growth or development of the student

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