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Under federal and state laws, a child with a disability may be eligible for special education and related services. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child with a disability is entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973 may also apply.

Preparation and attention to timelines are critical for positive outcomes. A child facing suspension or expulsion may benefit from a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and/or Manifestation Determination Review (MDR). A child with special needs may require Assistive Technology (AT) and staff training to incorporate a device into the child’s curriculum.

An early stage of the special education process is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting; frequently, school administrators, evaluators and teachers outnumber parents and their child. The IEP should have measurable goals and objectives. Expert evaluations, reports, recommendations and participation at hearings are frequently important. The IEP team may impose a plan while noting a family’s opinion, whether supported by an expert or not. If you disagree with the IEP team’s recommendations for your child’s education services and accommodations, you may request a Due Process Hearing and/or Mediation.

While collaboration, negotiations and research contribute to a positive working relationship between your family and the school district, continuing the struggle for access to education for your child beyond the IEP stage may be necessary.