Special Needs Lawyer: Legal Guidelines for Parents of Autistic Children
Making sure that children with special needs get the education they deserve could be one of the hardest things for parents to do. Some kids have trouble in school, whether it’s with focusing, learning, language, or perception, with their behavior, or with making and keeping friends. Some people have more serious problems, like physical or mental health problems, emotional problems, or learning disabilities. No matter what, these kids still have the right to go to school.
If your child is in special education and things are going well, you may never need a lawyer. But it’s possible that at some point in your child’s education, you’ll want to hire an attorney or at least talk to one about how to help your child. Some parents end up hiring a lawyer when the school district refuses to provide the services they want as part of an individualized education programme (IEP).
Guidelines for parents of autistic childrens with a disorder on the autism spectrum
Every child is required by federal law to get a free, good education in the least restrictive setting possible. Thus, special needs lawyers can help in formulating guidelines for parents. Special needs students are protected by three federal laws that help them learn in school:
- Part 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. (1990)
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 2004. (1975)
Different states have different rules about who can get help, what services are available, and how these laws are put into place. It’s important for parents to know about these laws and any other rules that apply in their area.
- Section 504 is a civil rights law that says schools can’t treat kids with special needs unfairly and have to make sure they have what they need. It applies to any public or private programme or activity that gets money from the federal government. Reasonable accommodations include changing the homework, giving the student the services they need, letting them sit in front of the class, and giving tests without time limits. Most of the time, kids who are covered by Section 504 have deficits that aren’t as bad as those covered by IDEA or that don’t fit into the categories of IDEA. Section 504 says that a child is disabled if he or she has a disability that limits a major life activity by a lot (learning and social development are included under the list of major life activities).
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that all schools (except those run by religious groups) must meet the needs of kids with psychiatric disorders. The ADA says that no child with a disability can be turned away from educational services, programmes, or activities. It also says that no child with a disability can be treated unfairly.
IDEA is a federal law that sets the rules for all special education services for U.S. kids. Under IDEA, a child must fall into one of the following categories to be eligible for special education:
- Autism and learning problems
- Mental retardation
- Physical disabilities
- A serious emotional problem
- Injury to the brain
- Problems with seeing and hearing
- Other problems with your health
As a parent, you can ask for an evaluation of your child to find out if he or she needs special education or other services. The evaluation could include a behavior analysis, educational testing, an occupational therapy assessment, psychological testing, and/or a speech and language evaluation. Here are the steps parents of children with special needs need to take:
Keep careful records, including what your child’s teachers say about him or her and any notes, reports, letters, or other forms of communication between home and school.
Talk to your child’s teacher about your worries and ask for an assessment by the school’s study team. Parents can also ask for evaluations from professionals who are not related to them.
Send in your requests for evaluations and services in writing. Also, always put a date on your requests and keep a copy for your records.
Based on the results of the evaluation, your child may be able to get a variety of services that are required by law. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is made after the evaluation. IEPs can include speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or the provision of a classroom aide, among other types of services. The parent doesn’t decide whether or not the child is eligible under the law, but the parent has the right to be involved in making the IEP. Also, the evaluation team at the school’s results are not set in stone. Parents have the right to disagree with what they say and decide. Parents have to get information from the school about how to file an appeal.
Parents of a child with special needs should always speak up for their child, be proactive, and do what they need to do to make sure their child gets the right help. The process can be hard to understand and scary. Here are a few things you should think about:
Parents can ask for help from a U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Regional Office if the school district doesn’t respond to their request.
If the school district refuses to provide services under the IDEA, Section 504, or both, the parents can challenge this decision in a due process hearing. This is a legal hearing where the parents and the child have a representative who can help them say what they think and how they feel.
If you want to appeal a school’s decision, you might need to hire your own lawyer. This lawyer can take the school to court, but most schools will start to help you once they hear from a lawyer. They would rather pay for your child’s equipment than for an attorney and a court case.
“Special needs” kids on the autism spectrum can’t take care of themselves. They trust their parents to take care of them and keep them safe. Parents can have a hard time and stress out if they don’t know what their child’s rights are or how to protect them. Parents can protect their child by hiring a special needs lawyer who can help in formulating guidelines for the parents of autistic children.