On November 19, 1975, Public Law 94-142 was in-acted by Congress as, The Education for all Handicapped Children. It would be another twenty-two years before the previous law, now known as; Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) would be revised. The revision was done to further protect individuals that were not; 1) being properly educated do to their disability, 2) more than half did not receive the appropriate services needed to enable inclusion or the opportunity to advance, 3) thousands of children with disabilities were excluded completely from public schools, therefore denied the natural process of social skills with their peers.
Each state has their own statues & regulations that must be followed. No state my reduce or eliminate any rights of a child that would be covered under IDEA. That being said the first and foremost important thing to do as a parent/guardian is to educate yourself. Education is the key to ensure that your child gets the necessary programs that will enable them to thrive and progress. Most school systems are not going to educate you in this area. Educating a parent/guardian in most cases means the school system will have to spend more money on; assessments, training for teachers, equipment, related services, possible in class personal assistance for the child, or any assisted technology needed. These services add up and most school systems do not want to pay that cost. Be aware of what your child’s specific disability is, learn the best was for your child to be educated, and push for what will help him/her to succeed. In some cases it’s not about teaching your child the typical ABC’s or 123’s. Depending on the type and severity of the disability it may be that your child will need to learn life skills before anything else. These skills are just as important and vital to the success of your child. Example, if your child has a cognitive impairment followed with an impairment of cause and affect, he/she may not understand that you must look both ways to cross the street. Who should the child go to when in need of help, what are strangers, or most importantly what their name is should they get lost. These are extremely important for the safety of your child. Do not let the school system tell you it’s not their job to teach these valuable lessons. Remember, these lessons are taught everyday when we send our children kindergarten.
There are many places you can go to obtain the knowledge you need, though they may not be apparent to new eyes in this unfamiliar environment. First, try your local Law Library; almost all municipal buildings have one. Second, look for an Early Childhood Intervention establishment, these can usually be found in the front part of your local phone book under Government. Third, check to see if your state has a “Developmental Disability Council”. Each state should have some sort of council. These Council’s are funded by state or federal grants to ensure that family members have access to being educated. For example, The State of Tennessee has many programs such as;
* TIPS (Tennessee early Intervention Program)
* STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents)
* The ARC of TN (Association for Retarded Citizens, with more than 850 state and local chapters nationwide)
* TN Voices for Children
* TPA (TN Protection and Advocacy, helping to understand the laws and possible legal assistance)
* Or by simply going to any search engine and typing in, your state name + special education.
Finally, always remember, Knowledge is the Power for Success! You don’t have to be the most educated person to have a voice. Every state has some kind of Advocacy Center that can offer help or guidance in your pursuit to obtain a Free Appropriate Public Education, as known as (FAPE). The steps above are just a few ways to get started on your endeavor to seal the rights of your child and start the inner Advocate in you. You’ll soon find that you had more strength, will, drive and power than you ever imagined you had! Good luck and never give up!