father staring head to head at his daughter whos in a wheel chair

Parents of children with special needs, like their children, have unique challenges. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), disabled students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their individual needs. This is intended to be accomplished through well-crafted IEPs and Section 504 plans.

Even so, parents of disabled children may require the services of a skilled special education law attorney to ensure that their children receive the help they need and deserve. If your family resides in Louisville, Cincinnati, or the surrounding area, Shaw & Nelson, PLLC is well-prepared to represent and aggressively advocate for your child.

IEPs (Individualized Education Programs)

For some disabled children, alterations within the classroom setting are not sufficient. If, through in-school and private testing and diagnosis, your child requires another kind of support to learn and thrive, an IEP is usually the answer. 

An IEP is a written individualized education plan created during a collaborative meeting between you and your child’s teachers and school administrators. Once the parties agree to and sign the IEP document, the educational plan will be implemented and reviewed, and/or revised at least once a year. 

What an IEP Must Contain

An IEP must contain the following:

  • Child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance
  • Statement of measurable annual goals, social and emotional as well as academic
  • Description of the benchmarks of your child’s progress toward meeting annual goals
  • List of special education measures and related services needed and provided(e.g. physical, occupational or speech therapy, psychological counseling)
  • Necessary supplemental aids and services, including extracurricular activities in nonacademic settings.
  • Age-appropriate postsecondary goals in terms of education, training, and employment

Each child’s IEP must contain a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting annual goals will be evaluated and at what intervals it will be reported to their parents. A year is a long time, especially in the life of a child, so it is important that the IEP have short-term goals. As each goal is met, it provides evidence that the IEP is effective, reassures the parent that their child is receiving the education they deserve, and increases the child’s confidence and self-esteem.

How a Special Education Classroom Helps Children With Special Needs

Special education classrooms typically strive to provide an environment that varies from ordinary classrooms by:

  • Having fewer students so each student receives more individual attention
  • Having at least one other adult (teacher assistant or teacher aide) in the classroom to interact with, support, and encourage the children 
  • Altering the usual curriculum so it is more manageable for the students 
  • Allowing more time to complete tasks
  • Having a quieter environment with fewer visual distractions
  • Taking extra safety precautions for students whose disabilities put them at greater risk of injury

If as a parent you feel that your special needs child is not being provided with the healthy environment, individual attention, or special services required by law, contact Shaw & Nelson today. Our special education lawyers can help you understand exactly what your child is entitled to and negotiate, or if necessary litigate, to make sure your child’s needs are fully met.

Section 504

The name Section 504 is short for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law designed to protect the rights of disabled individuals in all programs that receive federal financial assistance. It applies to public school districts, most private schools, colleges, universities, and other state and local agencies. The major purposes of Section 504 are to provide equal education to special needs children and to prohibit discrimination against them. If your district is failing your child in either of these tasks, it’s time to contact Shaw & Nelson.

Section 504, like IEPs, requires schools to find and evaluate disabled students in their district at no cost to their parents. This rule applies whether the children are:

  • Living at home
  • Already attending school or not
  • Immigrants or migrants
  • In the hospital 
  • Living in a residential facility
  • Incarcerated

Differences Between IEPs and Section 504s

The primary difference between the two is that a Section 504 plan targets students who can learn in a regular classroom as long as appropriate accommodations are made. Such accommodations may include:

  • Having a check-in with a counselor or psychologist on a regular basis
  • Being allowed extra time for tests or homework assignments
  • Sitting in a place more conducive to learning (e.g. away from the window, near the teacher)
  • Taking tests in another, less occupied setting
  • Receiving audible directions or questions rather than written ones
  • Being allowed more breaks during the day or to move about a bit
  • Being allowed to use sensory tools or fidget toys

These simple accommodations for children who may be dyslectic, have ADHD, or be on the autism spectrum can make a world of difference by decreasing their anxiety and increasing their ability to concentrate and think more clearly. Carefully implemented, seemingly minor changes like these can enable the student to make significant academic progress and feel more confident in their own ability to learn.

Keep in mind that while your school district is required to make accommodations, the law does not demand that accommodations must be made if they create an “undue burden” in terms of overwhelming difficulty or expense. Since this is a subjective standard and some districts put budgetary concerns above student rights, you may well need our powerful special education lawyers to fight for your child’s civil rights.

Contact Our Experience Special Education Law Attorneys Today

At Shaw & Nelson, we know that raising a child with special needs, however joyful, adds additional frustration and stress to an already demanding job. Let us tackle disputes with your bureaucratic school system and/or its insensitive employees. Contact us now so we can supply you and your child with the legal and moral support you need.