What Qualifies a Child for Special Education?

A common question we get at The Law Office of James A. Welcome is “What qualifies a child for special education?” The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities.

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Introduction

Special education is specialized instruction that is designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Students with disabilities can have a wide range of needs, and special education services are adaptable to meet those needs. In order to qualify for special education services, a student must first be diagnosed with a disability that affects their ability to learn. Once a student is diagnosed, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is created to address their specific needs.

Definition of a Child with a Disability

A child with a disability is defined as a student who has been determined to need special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In order for a child to qualify for special education services, the child must first be evaluated to determine if he or she meets the criteria for one or more of the thirteen disability categories. If it is determined that the child does meet the criteria for one or more of the categories, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be developed in order to provide the child with the appropriate special education and related services.

2.1 Types of Disabilities

There are 13 types of disabilities that may qualify a child for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to the IDEA, a child must have “a disability” that “significantly” affects his or her “educational performance.”

The 13 types of disabilities are:

-Autism
-Blindness or visual impairment
-Deafness or hearing impairment
-Deaf-blindness
-Emotional disturbance (sometimes called “behavioral disorder” or “mental illness”)
-Intellectual disability
-Multiple disabilities
-Orthopedic impairment
-Other health impairment (this includes chronic health problems, cyclical and acute health issues, and Tourette Syndrome)
-Physical disability (this includes cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy)
-Specific learning disability (this includes dyslexia and ADHD)
-Speech or language impairment
Traumatic brain injury

The Individualized Education Program

In order to qualify for special education services, a child must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a document that is developed by a team of educators and professionals, along with the child’s parents, that outlines the child’s specific needs and the services that will be provided to meet those needs.

In order for a child to be eligible for an IEP, he or she must first be evaluated by a team of professionals to determine if he or she has a disability that affects his or her ability to learn. If it is determined that the child does have such a disability, the team will then develop an IEP that outlines the child’s individualized education program.

3.1 Developing the IEP

The IEP is developed through a meeting of the IEP team, which must include, at a minimum:
-The child’s parent or guardian
-A regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
-A special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, a person who may later be responsible for implementing parts of the IEP
-An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results (this individual may be a special education teacher or related services provider)
-A district representative who is:
– Knowledgeable about the general curriculum; and
– Able to provide information about the availability of resources in the district

3.2 IEP Goals

Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals are an essential part of a student’s educational plan. IEP goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, they should identify what the student will do, how progress will be measured, why the goal is important, and when the goal should be achieved.

Conclusion

When a child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or other condition that affects their ability to learn, they may be eligible for special education services. These services are designed to help children with disabilities overcome their challenges and succeed in school. Eligibility for special education services is determined by individual states, so requirements may vary from state to state. However, there are some general guidelines that all states must follow. To be eligible for special education services, a child must:

-Have a disability that affects their ability to learn
-Be of school age (between the ages of 5 and 21)
-Meet the state’s residency requirements

If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or other condition that affects their ability to learn, talk to your child’s doctor or school about whether they may be eligible for special education services.

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