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Parents' Rights and Special Education

April 19, 2010
by Lisa Jo Rudy

When we think about special education for our children with autism, we're usually thinking about our children's rights.  What kind of class do they have the right to attend?  What kinds of therapies do they have a right to access?  Recently, though, a conversation on this site turned to the question of parents' rights under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

To learn more, I went to that grandaddy of all special education law sites, Wrightslaw.com. Here's what Wrightslaw has to say (at least in part) about parental rights under the IDEA:

Parent counseling and training is an important related service that can help parents enhance the vital role they play in the lives of their children. When necessary to help an eligible student with a disability benefit from the educational program, parent counseling and training can include:

* "Assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child;

* Providing parents with information about child development; and

* Helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child's IEP or IFSP" [Individualized Family Service Plan]. [Section 300.24(b)(7)]

The last aspect---that of helping parents acquire necessary skills to support the implementation of their child's IEP or IFSP---is new in IDEA '97 and was added to: ...recognize the more active role acknowledged for parents...[as] very important participants in the education process for their children. Helping them gain the skills that will enable them to help their children meet the goals and objectives of their IEP or IFSP will be a positive change for parents, will assist in furthering the education of their children, and will aid the schools as it will create opportunities to build reinforcing relationships between each child's educational program and out-of-school learning. (U.S. Department of Education, 1999a, p. 12549).

Perhaps I'm misreading this, but my impression is that parents actually have the right under the IDEA to place parent training and parent/therapist/teacher communication into their child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) document.  Not only that, but if it's considered helpful for a parent to receive training in a particular therapy to further their child's education, that too can be included in the IEP.

It honestly never occurred to me that parent/teacher/therapist communication needed to be specially written up for an individual child: I'd always assumed it was part of the educational package (and desirable from all points of view).  Similarly, it never occurred to me that a district might be responsible for teaching a parent how to support their child's needs through special training.

Have you taken advantage of these elements of special education law?  Have you been successful in getting the district you're in to follow through?  Share your experiences and thoughts!

"Parents' Rights and Special Education" Autism.about.com

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