Of the three major systems, education is the only guaranteed entitlement for your child. Depending on your family income, child’s eligibility or the availability of services, publicly funded services and health care may or may not be provided.
The journey through the education universe is long and complex, but it’s one that’s well paved. Thanks to the families before you and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as I.D.E.A., public schools must provide your child a free appropriate public education, known as FAPE, from age 3 to 21. This section of the journey will take you up to age 16, after which transition planning formally begins.
Even with state and federal laws to ensure your child’s right to an education, it takes a lot of hard work to see that your child gets the services and education he or she needs. Throughout these school years, keep thinking ahead to the next phase of your child’s life. Each transition leads you and your child into new and uncertain territory.
If you know nothing else about special education, know these two things:
- Every child is entitled to have an individual educational program, known as an I.E.P. It’s specifically tailored to meet your child’s learning strengths and needs.
- You are a vital part of your child’s team in developing, reviewing and approving this plan. Don’t be left out.
An I.E.P. includes education goals and objectives, in addition to related services as needed, such as speech, physical or occupational therapies, assistive technology, counseling, or other aids and services that enable your child to receive a free appropriate public education.
While each school and district is responsible for special education, there are Educational Service Districts around the state that might be a resource as well. These service districts have additional information and resources available to families. Visit the Educational Service Districts website for more information.