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A Parent's Guide to Special Ed / Special Needs


You may be the key to making sure a child receives special education services. Whether you are a caseworker, foster parent, surrogate parent, biological parent, adoptive parent, guardian, or advocate, you can start the process to have a child entrusted to your care evaluated for special needs. If the child is found to have special needs, you may be the one to make sure s/he obtains the appropriate special education and related services.

If this sounds like an overwhelming responsibility or unwanted burden, consider how much time a child spends in school. You work with a child to help him/her deal with the multitude of issues that they may face, then s/he goes to school and his/her experience there can either undo your work or complement your efforts. Your participation in the special education process can help ensure that the child benefits from his/her school experience, and that, as appropriate, the educational goals set for the child are consistent with his/her clinical/therapeutic goals.

These materials were developed by the Friends of Special Education for our training seminars. They were designed to provide a quick reference on special education issues to assist those seeking to become effective educational advocates for the children in their care.

Part I of the materials lays out the basic procedure for having a child you suspect may have special needs evaluated, identifying the child's disabilities, developing an individual education plan to meet those needs in the school setting, and determining the appropriate school placement for the child.

Part II will provide a brief overview of how to address problems that may arise during the special education process.

Part III is a resource guide to names, addresses and phone numbers of people and agencies who can provide you with further information and/or assistance, including legal advocacy and parent groups for a wide variety of disabilities and special needs.

The Appendix includes a list of the disabilities covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act with some hallmarks of each disability, and sample letters for setting in motion a number of the mechanisms discussed in this guide. It is our hope that this training and these materials will be helpful to you as you work toward enabling children to develop their full potential.

Council for Disability Rights

Knowing your rights is the easy part. Exercising them can be a bit trickier.

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