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Your Child's Rights as Mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

“We are a Hispanic family who moved to the U.S. three years ago. I have a 16 y.o. son with Asperger syndrome (high functioning) who also has a learning disability. He’s failing miserably on multiple levels. I don’t believe the school is making much of an effort to take his disorder into account. Would my son be eligible for special Ed. Class? Also, what are his rights as a student with a learning disability?”

Your Asperger’s (high functioning autism) son has the right to a free and appropriate public school education. Getting involved in his education is among the most important things you can do as his advocate. In order to make sure that your learning disabled son gets the help he needs throughout his school career, you should familiarize yourself with the rights you have as his advocate. These rights are federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

1. All tests and interviews must be conducted in your son’s native language. An evaluation process can’t discriminate against your son because he is not a native English speaker, has a disability, or is from a different racial or cultural background.

2. An IEP meeting must be held once a year, and comprehensive re-evaluation must be done every three years (unless the IEP team agrees that it is not necessary). However, you may request an IEP meeting at any time.

3. Be sure to discuss what kind of assistive technology devices (e.g., speech recognition software, electronic organizers, books on tape, etc.) could help your son. Assistive technology services include evaluating your son for specific devices, providing the device and training him to use the device.

4. During an IEP meeting, the IEP team should develop goals for any related services (e.g., occupational therapy), which could help your son. Be sure the team specifies how often and for how long these services will be provide – as well as in what setting the services will be provided. This team will also identify behavioral strategies to support your son’s learning in school and at home.

5. If the public school agrees that your son may have a learning disability and may need special help, the school must evaluate him at no cost to you.

6. If the public school system refuses to give your son an evaluation, they must explain in writing the reasons for refusal, and must also provide information about how you can challenge their decision.

7. Teachers or other professionals can recommend that your son be evaluated, but the school must get your explicit written consent before any part of the evaluation is started.

8. You and your son have the right to attend and participate in a meeting to design an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which must be held within 30 days of your son being found eligible for special education services. An IEP should set reasonable learning goals for your son and state the services that the school district will provide.

9. You and your son have the right to participate in the development of the IEP, along with a team that will include your son's teachers, a representative from the school administration who is qualified to recommend and supervise special programs and services, as well as representatives from other agencies that may be involved in your son’s transition services. You can also request an advisor to help you better understand your rights and responsibilities as a mother or father, and request that this person be present.

10. You have the right for your son’s evaluation to be completed within a specific timeframe. Some states have set a limit. For states who had no limit, as of July 1, 2005, the evaluation must be completed within 60 days of your written consent.

11. You have the right to a copy of all evaluation reports and paperwork related to your son.

12. You have the right to be a part of the evaluation team that decides what information is needed to determine whether your son is eligible.

13. You have the right to challenge the school’s decisions concerning your son. If you disagree with a decision that's been made, discuss it with the school and see if an agreement can be reached. If all efforts don’t work, IDEA provides other means of protection for you and your son under the law. These other ways of settling your dispute allow moms and dads – as well as school personnel – to resolve disagreements (e.g., mediation with an impartial third person, a due process hearing, or a formal hearing in a court of law).

14. You have the right to obtain an Independent Education Evaluation from a qualified professional and challenge the findings of the school evaluation team.

15. You have the right to request in writing that your son be evaluated to determine if he is eligible for special education and related services. This evaluation is more than just a single test. The school must gather information from you, your son's teacher and others who would be helpful. An assessment of your son must then be conducted in all the areas that may be affected by the suspected disability.

16. Your son can’t be determined eligible for special education services only because of limited English proficiency or because of lack of instruction in reading or math.

17. Your son has a right to the least restrictive environment possible. Unless members of the IEP team can justify removal from the general education classroom, your son should receive instruction and support with classmates that do not have disabilities. Also be sure that special education services or supports are available to help your son participate in extracurricular activities (e.g., clubs, sports, etc.).

You know your son best, and your input should be considered at every opportunity. Good luck!

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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