Know Your Child's Educational Rights
Your child has a legal right to a free and appropriate public education from elementary school through high school. The federal law governing this is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and some states go beyond those requirements to provide education from birth to school age. Students with visual impairments are expected to receive as much of their education as possible in a general education classroom following the regular curriculum. They are also entitled to a variety of supports and services. The basic tenet of IDEA is that children with disabilities must receive free public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate for that student.
Once your child reaches mandatory school age (which varies by state from 4 to 6 years old), the school system must:
- Enroll your child in school.
- Evaluate your child fairly at least every three years. This includes:
• Getting your permission.
• Using tests designed specifically for the way they are being used.
• Being sure the people testing your child are qualified to do so.
• Using more than one test.
• Testing your child in his or her first language, using whatever means of communication is required, such as Braille or large type.
• Using a multidisciplinary team—medical, educational, social, and other professionals who can evaluate all your child's needs.
• Including at least one professional who is familiar with your child's visual impairment condition.
- Develop an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) geared to your child's strengths and weaknesses. See the section devoted to detailed information about IEP.
- Provide a continuum of educational placements or a variety of classes and options that range from least restrictive (a regular class with nonhandicapped children) to most restrictive (a special class with handicapped children in a school serving handicapped children).
- Make every effort to assure that your child attend his or her neighborhood school.
- Get your written permission before placing your child in a special education program.
- Provide a system or procedures that both you and the school must follow if you disagree with or have a complaint about the evaluation, placement, or IEP for your child.
- Provide an education, including books, materials, and equipment, for your child at no cost to you.
Learn more in Reach Out and Teach: Meeting the Training Needs of Parents of Visually and Multiply Handicapped Young Children, by Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Ph.D.