Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Special Education Services for Students With Disabilities

Welcome to FindLaw's Education Services and Disabilities section. Special education is a vital part of the education system. It provides tailored support to students with disabilities. Some students need education accommodations at school. Certain laws ensure students get the access and help they need. Ensuring these laws are followed is the responsibility of school officials.

This section provides articles and resources to help you with various accessibility and education topics. This section includes articles on the following topics:

Overview of Public Education Support Laws

The cornerstone of special education in the United States is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All education support and services laws are derived from IDEA. IDEA determines how state agencies provide individual education and other services to children. This law ensures students with disabilities receive free appropriate public education, or FAPE. This must be achieved in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.

This law covers protections and rights for students in public schools. This includes the right to an education that meets their unique needs. This law helps prepare children with disabilities for employment and independent living. The law applies to children ages 3 to 21. It provides individualized educational programs (IEPs) to these students.

The parents of children with disabilities also have certain rights under IDEA. This includes the right to review all school records, to be an equal member of the IEP team, and to suggest an alternative to the IEP when necessary.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another crucial legislation impacting special education. Section 504 of this act is particularly significant for students with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including public schools. Under Section 504, students who may not qualify for special education under IDEA may still receive accommodations and modifications to ensure equal access to education.

This can include changes in the way instruction is delivered. It can also include assistive technology or adjustments in classroom settings and testing environments. The Rehabilitation Act complements IDEA by broadening the scope of support to include a wider range of disabilities. This ensures a more inclusive education system. Schools are responsible for identifying students eligible under Section 504 and providing them with the necessary accommodations.

Assistance and Accommodations Available

Under IDEA, eligible children receive various supports, known as related services. These might include speech therapy, counseling, or physical therapy. Schools must conduct assessments to understand each child's needs.

Children with the following conditions are entitled to rights under IDEA:

  • Autism
  • Deafness
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Emotional disturbance
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Many disabilities
  • Speech-language impairment
  • Visual impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Specific learning disability (SLD) (such as dyslexia)
  • Other health impairments (subject to approval)

School districts must provide services to these students in the least restrictive environment. This means students should learn alongside their peers to the greatest extent possible.

How To Build an Education Plan For Your Child

Each child who qualifies for accommodations is entitled to an IEP. An IEP is a plan developed for each eligible child. It details the student's educational needs, goals, and the specific services they will receive. This plan details the child's performance level. It also discusses how their disability affects academic performance. Finally, this plan includes any accommodations which must be provided for the student.

The IEP team develops this plan and meets annually to discuss any adjustments to be made. The IEP team must include at least one of the student's regular classroom teachers. There should also be a teacher focused on accessibility or disability education. A psychologist and an administrator should also join. There should be an administrator present. The student's parents also may be part of the team.

Preparing for an IEP meeting involves understanding your child's needs and academic achievement. You might also want to know what accommodations might help them succeed. The IEP will focus on the individual needs of the student. Through the IEP, the student will be supported throughout the school year.

Federal and State Support for Special Education Access

Both federal and state governments provide resources and guidelines for special education. The U.S. Department of Education oversees nationwide policies. State boards implement these policies in local schools. The federal government supports special education through various funding streams and programs. The main source of federal funding is under IDEA, which allocates funds to states based on specific criteria. These funds are used to cover a range of services and supports.

Statewide laws and regulations can vary, so knowing your specific state's provisions is important. State governments also contribute to funding special education. Each state has its mechanisms and formulas for distributing funds to school districts. These formulas often consider factors like the number of students and the severity of liabilities. States might also have unique programs and grants to support special education. These help complement federal funding.

When Schools Violate Special Education Laws

Any agency, such as a school district, that fails to provide FAPE to eligible students risks losing federal funding. The state education authority hears complaints from parents and students. It must hold an impartial meeting about the complaint.

Parents may also appeal the decision to another state agency if they are unsatisfied with the outcome. Then, they may take the issue to a court proceeding. If the complaint involves an alleged breach of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it should be addressed to the federal Department of Education.

End Goal of Special Education Programs

The ultimate aim of special education is to support students in achieving academic success and preparing them for life after high school. Whether they attend public or private schools, the goal is to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need for further education, employment, or independent living.

Getting Legal Help With Special Education

Understanding education rights and procedural safeguards is crucial as a parent to a child with special needs. These include the right to an independent educational evaluation, due process hearings, and dispute resolution methods. If you need help navigating these systems, consider seeking legal help from a lawyer knowledgeable in education law.

Learn more about education services and disabilities by clicking on the links below.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Was this helpful?

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options