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All children, even those with disabilities or special needs, have the right to go to public schools. Disabilities can either be physical, mental, emotional, learning, or health related.  For more on disabilities click this link Disabilities

Children with disabilities or special needs have the right to receive needed educational services.  Special Education means the child’s education will meet the unique needs of the child with a disability or special needs.  This may mean adapting the content of what is taught to adjust to the student’s ability, the methods used to teach, and the location.  It may also include related services like speech and audiological services, physical and occupational therapy.  These are just some of the related services.  For more on what makes Special Education an Appropriate Education click here.

Services are provided at no cost to the family.   Schools can only charge a child with a disability or special needs the fees that would be charged if the child did not have disabilities or special needs.  I.e. locker fees or laboratory fees

These rights are part of a law passed by Congress in 1975.  Public Law 101-476 is better known as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.  This law was reauthorized in 2004.

Click for more information on IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004)

The part of IDEA that allows all children a public education at no cost to the family is called FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education).   Services must be provided for qualifying students  as early as age 3 and up to age 21.   For more on FAPE, click here FAPE.

Students with disabilities or special needs also have the right to receive their education in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  This means that they should be in classrooms with and studying the same materials as the children without disabilities as much as possible.

The Special Education process starts when the parents, guardian, or school staff make a referral for an initial evaluation.   What services a student with special needs will receive and where they will be received are determined at an Admissions and Release Committee (ARC) Meeting

Who should be at this meeting?

o     The student
o     The parent or guardian
o     The student’s general education teacher
o     The student’s special education teacher
o     Someone from the school district that knows the
       general education and special education systems
       and can okay the way the school’s resources are being used.
o     Some one to interpret test results and knows how the
        results will effect the student in school
o      People that will be providing services such as therapy,
        counseling, care coordination …
o      If the child has been in an early intervention program,
        a person from that program should come 
o      Anyone you think will be able to provide information needed
        to make the best plan for the student’s education
o      You may also have someone there to assist or support you.

The plan that is created at this meeting is an Individual Education Program (IEP).  Sometimes the ARC meeting is called an IEP meeting.  The IEP will list the things the student is to work on, how they will do this, where they will work, and goals to determine the effects of the work.  The plan should be designed around Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

Inclusion is another word heard when talking about people with disabilities and special needs.  LRE helps to provide inclusion.  For more on the benefits of inclusion click here.  Inclusion

Parents  have the right to look at their child’s school records.  You can have copies of the materials if you want.  School personnel have to explain the records if you need them to.  If the parent disagrees with the record, they can have errors corrected, and they may also add materials  that show  their point of view.  Other people may view the record if the parent gives permission, the school will most like need a signed permission form.

It is important that you keep records of your own.  Keep copies of letters that you send, the letters you get back, reports, and IEPs.

Click here for more on Record Keeping  

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112) is a civil rights law, which states that no program, which receives federal funds, may exclude a person with disabilities from participating solely by reason of his or her disability.  This includes the public education system.  The Act also sets standards to determine whether the education provided to a student with disabilities is “appropriate”.    Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act, has a broader definition of “handicapped” or “disabled” than does IDEA and qualifies students for special services when they do not qualify under IDEA. To learn more about disabilities that qualify for services under 504 see #12 in this link 504 covered disabilities.

Once a student with a disability leaves the public school system to attend a postsecondary school; they are no longer protected by IDEA, but they are still covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and ADA.   

Post-secondary schools cannot discriminate on the basis of a disability.  

A post-secondary school is not required to provide FAPE, but they are required to
provide appropriate accommodations and support services to assure equal educational opportunity for  students with disabilities.  The terms of all reasonable accommodations and services are based upon assessment of the impact of the student's disability on his or her academic performance.  Academic adjustments may include modification to academic requirements  and auxiliary aids and services.  Examples:  reducing a course load, substituting one course for another, providing supplemental note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for test taking, adaptive software or hardware for school computers.  Postsecondary schools are not required to waive, eliminate or fundamentally alter essential requirements, it must consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation that would permit the student  to satisfy the requirement. 
For example, although the school may be required to provide extended testing time, it is not required to change the substantive content  or format of the test, nor is the school required to lower or effect substantial modifications to essential requirements.

Post-secondary schools do not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.  

If the post-secondary school provides housing for students with no disabilities, then they must provide comparable housing for students with disabilities. This housing must be accessible, convenient and provided at the same cost as regular housing. If phones are provided in the regular housing, then TTY should be provided for students that need it.  

The student is responsible for notifying the school that they have a disability and  will need academic adjustment.  The student is responsible for providing the appropriate documentation of a disability and must provide the documentation prior to receiving academic accommodations.

Schools are required to have procedures to request academic adjustments, it is up to the student to know and follow these procedures. Many schools have staff whose purpose is to assist students with disabilities, contact the admissions officer or counselor to determine what office to contact regarding services.


Points to remember

All children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, in the least restrictive environment, participation in the general curriculum is emphasized.

 Services provided to students with disabilities, must be comparable to the serves received by other students.  A good question to ask to help determine if a service is appropriate is:  If this child did not have a disability what would they be getting, where would they get it?

Keep in mind that when you ask for services, that they are for educational purposes designed to address the individual needs of the student with a disability.  Don’t expect the services that do not relate to the child’s education, but don’t accept any less.

Children with qualifying disabilities are eligible to receive services from the public schools as early as age 3, and up to age 21.

Disabilities can either be physical, mental, emotional, learning or health related.   

You have the right to view your child’s school records.  It is important that you keep records of your own.  Keep copies of letters that you send, the letters you get back, reports, and IEPs.

A post-secondary school is not required to provide FAPE, but they are required to provide appropriate academic adjustments.  It is up to the student to know and follow the procedures to request adjustments, contact the admissions officer or counselor to determine what office to contact regarding services. 



ADA  The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

Click here for more information on ADA

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
this portion of P.L.101-476 requires an education program be provided for all school-aged children, regardless of disability, without cost to families.  The exact requirements of “appropriate” are not defined, but other references with in the law imply the most “normal” setting available. 

Click here for more information on FAPE

 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is also known as Public Law 101-476 (P.L. 101-476).  IDEA is a federal law passed in 1975,
reauthorized in 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004: P.L. 108-446).  IDEA requires a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) be provided for all children with disabilities without cost to families, and assures the protection of the rights of these children and youth.  Keep in mind; a child with a disability may be eligible for services through the public school system as early as age 3 and through age 21. Parents and individuals identified by the parents as a representative have the right to inspect and obtain copies of the materials in their child’s school records.  They also have the right to have school personnel explain the records.  If the parent disagrees with the record, they can have errors corrected, and they may also have materials added that demonstrates the parent’s point of view.

Click for more information on IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004)

Individual Education Program (IEP) is the written educational plan designed for the school-aged child with disabilities, and is developed by the team of professionals (teachers, therapists, etc.) along with the child’s parents.  The IEP team must include at least one general education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the general education environment). The IEP describes how the child is presently doing, what the child’s learning needs are, and what services the child will need and who will provide them.  The IEP is a legal document, and is reviewed and updated yearly.  Click here for more information on Guide to IEP's

IEP Pop-up

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is an educational setting or program that provides the student with disabilities the chance to work and learn to the best of their ability.  The student is provided with as much contact as possible with children without disabilities, and at the same time the child’s learning needs and physical requirements are being met.  

Initial Evaluation If your child is having trouble in school, you may ask the school to evaluate your child.  The school may even bring up the idea of an evaluation.  The evaluation is provided at no cost to you.  The school system must have your permission to do an evaluation or to provide any special services.  The evaluation must be completed within a reasonable time after the request.  Evaluations must be done in the child’s native language.  They must be non-discriminatory and a trained evaluator must give them.  Since the results will be used to determine if the child has a disability and what service are needed the decision cannot be made based on only one procedure such as only one test. While you may request one verbally, a written request maybe the best route.  A letter avoids confusion and provides a record of your request.  It also gives you the opportunity to get your thoughts down where you cannot forget them and you can review them or have others review them, and make changes.  It is a good idea to keep a folder to hold copies of the letters you send.  Since school districts have their own guidelines for special education, you may want to call the main office of the school to ask for a copy of these guidelines.  The guidelines should tell you to whom you should send the letter.  If it doesn’t you can send it to the principal.  Send a copy to your child’s teacher to keep the aware of what is going on.  The letter doesn’t have to be long or written in any particular manner, tell them why you are writing, your concerns, what you would like to see done, and any questions you may have.  Be sure to provide the child’s full name and the name of the main teacher or current class placement.  Give your address and daytime phone number where you can be reached.  Remember to say thank you.  If you need help writing the letter contact one of the agencies listed below.

Click here for more information                     

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law, which states, “no qualified handicapped individual; … shall, solely by reason of the handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  It also requires that qualified students with disabilities be educated with persons who are not handicapped to the maximum extent appropriate. 

Section 504 protects any “individual with disabilities who “…(i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.”  It also protects individuals whose health related needs must be met during the school day.  Section 504 also requires placement in the least restrictive environment, evaluation and procedural safeguards for students and parents, including notice, hearing rights and access to student records. Section 504 requires that services, provided to students with disabilities, are comparable to the serves received by other students.  There are no guidelines for a written education plan, but it does state development of an IEP is one way to meet the requirements of the law.  504 Plan maybe the term you would hear vs. IEP.  You can contact your school district’s Section 504 Compliance Office and ask for the written policies and procedures for documenting the 504 plans.   

For more information on education contact:

F.I.N.D. Project
Council on Mental Retardation

(502) 584-1239

Interdisciplinary Human
Development Institute (IHDI)
( 257-2769

Kentucky Department of Education
Parent Resource Centers

(502) 564-4970

Kentucky Special Parent
Involvement Network (KY-SPIN)


Office of Family Resources and
Youth Services Centers (FRYSC)

502) 564-4986

  Information for this page was obtain from:

Advocacy Partners = Parents Helping Parents
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. Department of Education/Office of Civil Rights

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