Written by Ninoska Tamayo
Have you heard of special education?
Most of us typically learn about special education when a child is struggling to learn, usually in school or have an identified disability. Special education gives instruction and provides support that are specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child whose disability affects their ability to learn or their educational performance. These special services are provided at no cost because state and federal law requires that all children in public schools (this also includes private schools and home schools) who are eligible for special education, receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). A child who is found eligible for special education may receive a variety of services, including speech and language therapy, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, as well as counseling services.
There are many reasons why a child is struggling to learn, do poorly in school or simply not want to regularly attend school: this can include medical problems, language issues, behavioral and/or emotional issues, or learning disabilities. The following are some examples of when to ask for help.
Difficulties with learning the alphabet, rhyming words, and connecting letters to sounds
Not understanding what they are reading
Problems with motor skills (Awkward pencil grip and poor handwriting skills) • Has Trouble following multiple directions
Trouble organizing thoughts and what they want to say
Confusing mathematical symbols and numbers
Not being able to tell a story in order
Not following social rules of conversation
Some parents may face additional challenges to ensure that their child receives the best possible education to meet their own needs. Frequently this means trying to navigate the complex world of special education. It’s important to remember each state has its own procedures and rules for providing special education services.
Parents play a vital role in the education of their children. Parents of children with disabilities have the right to participate in the educational decision-making process. It is crucial that parents keep records, organize the information, and have separate files about their child. For example, records of the child’s developmental milestones (sitting, crawling, walking, talking, etc.,) were they met or were there any delays, any past health concerns (fevers, seizures, hospitalizations stay, and medication taken or currently taking). Knowing the family history related to learning disabilities and/or social emotional medical diagnosis from both parents is extremely important. Parents need to observe the child's ability to study, do work, and finish tasks assigned at home. Additionally, parents should keep a separate file of all the materials about the child’s education (progress reports, teacher comments, and any tests and the results). Lastly, parents should keep a record of additional support or interventions provided to help the child’s learning needs.
A home-schooled child believed to have a learning disability, has the right to request an evaluation and services from their local public school district. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team (Remember, parents are part of the IEP team) determines the services that should be provided and the level of responsibility that the school district will provide to eligible home-schooled child. In my opinion parents are the most important people in a child’s education.
We need to remember that teachers and even schools can change from year to year, parents are the constant connection between children and learning (both at home and at school).
M. ED., E.Ds., Credentialed School Psychologist
McGarry Klose, L. (Ph.D.). Special Education: A Basic Guide for Parents. National Association of School Psychologist.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special
Education Programs. Building the legacy: IDEA 2004.