Many people are aware that there are laws requiring public accommodations for people with disabilities; however, finding out their child has a learning disability – such as after a brain injury – can overwhelm some parents. The laws are complicated, and any disability presents a challenge.
Parents should educate themselves about the laws and how they apply to their child to ensure their child’s rights are protected and to ensure the child receives all resources available to him or her.
Laws Affecting Children with Learning Disabilities
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines the rights children with learning disabilities have in public schools. Every child has a right to a fair, free and appropriate education regardless of any learning disability.
Parents have a right to request an evaluation from the school to determine if their child suffers from a learning disability. The evaluation is free, conducted in the child’s native language and includes parental participation.
If the school determines the child has a learning disability, it is required to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child. This plan sets reasonable education goals for the child and outlines services that the school will provide to meet those goals. Parents have a right to be an integral part of their child’s IEP.
Schools need to do everything they can to keep a child in a normal classroom. Assistive technology, physical therapy and other services are some examples of services a school may provide to children with learning disabilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), also provides rights to children with learning disabilities. The act prohibits people with disabilities from being denied participation in any federally-funded program. This law can ensure participation in other activities besides education.
Tips for Handling Individualized Education Plans
Developing an IEP is a complicated process involving meetings and discussions of a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Before beginning the process, parents should take some time to determine their goals for their child. These goals can help parents focus on the process and meet their expectations. As part of tracking these goals, parents also have to keep good records of the IEP, their child’s report cards and other records.
For the parents’ own sake, they should develop some strategies for coping with IEP meetings. School officials often speak in frank terms about a child’s limitations at these hearings, and sometimes parents feel that the officials are disparaging their child. This is usually not their intention. They might be sure to ask about what the child is doing right, for example. Being very courteous can also be helpful during these meetings.
What can parents do if these laws aren’t properly enforced?
IDEA gives parents options to appeal a school’s decision if there is a dispute in the IEP process. This can include mediation, a due process hearing and court hearings. Parents have a right to legal representation at these hearings and can also consult with an attorney throughout the process to discuss their child’s rights.
Chalik & Chalik is committed to helping Florida parents and children with learning disabilities. Browse our Parents’ Corner for more informative blogs for parents.