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Message # 741 Education rights of handicapped children

mp3 #741 Educational Rights of Handicapped Children (mp3 file)

All handicapped children are entitled by federal law to an education that meets their special needs, from the time they are age 3, until they reach age 22, or graduate from high school, whichever comes first. Every child with a mental, physical or learning handicap or disability may be eligible for special education. Parents should participate in the planning of that special education.

The right to a special education means that your handicapped child has the right to receive what all children receive, such as classroom instruction, physical education, health screening, transportation and other services, such as art and music. If your child is handicapped, the school must provide these same opportunities under professional supervision. All of these services are free.

Your child has a right to a fair evaluation of his disabilities. This includes testing to determine your child's ability to learn. The school must discuss the results of the tests with you. The tests will be given in an appropriate manner. For instance, the school won't give a deaf child a spoken test, nor will the school give a written test to a blind child. Psychological testing requires parental permission. The school psychologist or other professional doing an evaluation should explain the tests to you, why they are chosen for your child, and the test results.

Your child has a right to special aids and services to function in the classroom, such as large-type books, hearing aids, and mechanical supports if your child cannot hold a book or write with a pen. These aids and services may also include testing, therapy and counseling. These special services are also free. In some cases these services are provided by other agencies at other locations, away from the school.

The law gives your child a right to be educated in the least restrictive environment that is best for him, and for other students. This means that if your child can function in a regular classroom with non-handicapped children, he must be placed in that classroom. This is called "mainstreaming." If your child cannot be "mainstreamed," he· must be placed in an environment as similar to regular classrooms as possible, and he must not be isolated from other children. Make sure that a description of the environment for your child is included in his Individualized Education Plan, called the IEP.

The IEP begins with a description of your child's present level of performance. The IEP team of parents, teachers, and other professionals outlines both long-term goals and short-term objectives for your child. The plan also explains how the school will carry out these goals.

For example, a short-term objective might be learning the alphabet, and a long-term goal might be learning to read simple words. The IEP is revised every year.

Sometimes, occupational and physical therapy are required in order to help your child participate in school activities. These related services, if required for your child, must be included in the IEP, as well as what, when, where and by whom they are to be provided.

As parents, you should become active at your child's school by talking to parents of other students, the teacher or teachers, the aides, the therapists, and other person. Study your child's Individual Education Plan. If you disagree with it, you may ask for a fair hearing, or a mediation conference. At the conference or hearing, you may present your views and the school presents its views. An independent third person will then resolve the dispute. You may be represented by an attorney, or another advocate, at the hearing.

Other safeguards under the law protecting the rights of handicapped children include the use of nondiscrimatory testing materials and procedures, confidentiality of records, your right to examine your child's records, your right to get a second opinion, your right to a written notice of any changes relating to your child's education, in a language you can understand, and your right to file complaints with the State Department Of Education.

You, as the parent or 'guardian of a handicapped child, have the responsibility to see that your child gets an education that is designed to meet his special needs, in an environment that meets his special needs.

If you have any questions, you may write or call your local school district, your county superintendent of schools, or the Division Of Special Education of the State Department of Education, 1430 N Street, Sacramento, California 95814. The website for the State Department of Education is

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