When parents have a child who is diagnosed with a special need, they will suddenly find themselves in the midst of a very confusing new world. While their goals are nearly always the same and include getting the child the medical care and the education that he or she needs, the wide array of new legalities, terms and acronyms can put a wrench in the best-laid plans. Parents who are just starting down this path can use this helpful guide to give them an understanding of the basics of special education law.
IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and it is a federal law that promises all special education students an appropriate education. In addition, IDEA helps to ensure that each of these students is prepared for their futures whether that is college or a job. Even if these students are unable to further their educations past high school, they should still be prepared to live as independently as possible.
FAPE stands for Free, Appropriate Public Education. It is what all students are guaranteed through IDEA. Every special needs student is required to be offered an education through the local school district without additional cost to the parent. Additionally, the education should be appropriate for the student’s level and should be given in the least restrictive environment possible.
The IEP is the Individualized Education Program and is a document that is required to be prepared each year by the public school district in conjunction with the parents and even the students when possible. The IEP lists the resources that the child will need to succeed and will also list the goals that the child is to reach during the year. This document should be very specific and should be revised as needed throughout the year.