1. What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA)?
Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), in 1975 to assist states and school districts in meeting the needs of students with educational disabilities. This landmark law is enacted currently as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as amended in 1997. On July 1, 2005, the newly reauthorized version, which is known as IDEIA 2004, will become law.
The IDEIA is a federal law that requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to eligible students with educational disabilities. "A free appropriate public education" means special education and related services are to be provided as described in an individualized education program (IEP) at no cost to you, if your child is eligible.
2. Where do I begin if I believe my school age child needs special education services?
You should begin by discussing your concerns with your child's teacher(s).
3. How can I refer my child for an evaluation of his/her educational needs?
You should obtain a referral form from the Special Education Facilitator in your child's school. When you return the referral form to the Special Education Facilitator, the referral process begins. The term "evaluation" refers to the total process of gathering and using information to determine whether a child has a disability and whether the child requires special education as a result of that disability.
The Special Education Facilitator will schedule a Team meeting to decide how to proceed with the referral. The Team will consist of the Facilitator, Parent(s) or Guardians, classroom Teacher, special education Teacher, and other professionals as deemed necessary by the Facilitator or requested by the Parent. It is important for the parents or guardians to be active members of the Team.
At the meeting, your concerns and your child's progress in school will be discussed. The Team may decide that no further testing is warranted at this time. There may be educational support programs available to all students through the general education program that meet your child's needs. If this is the case, the Team may decide to end the referral at this point.
However, the Team may decide that further assessments are necessary to understand your child's educational needs. As a Team, you will decide which types of assessments will be given to gather information to address the educational concerns. The Team requires written parental permission before any assessments can be administered under the special education process.
If at any point in the special education evaluation process, the parent disagrees with the team decision, there is a process available to parents to resolve any disagreements. This process is explained in the Procedural Safeguards for Students with Disabilities booklet. This booklet is given to all parents at the time of initial referral and offered at least annually to parents of students who are receiving special education assistance.
4. What is done with the results of my child's evaluation?
You will be invited to attend an Evaluation Team meeting where the evaluators will explain and discuss the results and their recommendations. The purpose of the meeting is to determine if the information gathered indicates that your child has an educational disability and requires special education services. If your child is found to be eligible, the evaluation results will form the basis for developing your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP).
5. What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement of the special educational program designed to meet your child's special educational needs. The IEP has two purposes: (1) to establish the learning goals for your child, and (2) to state the services that the District will provide for your child. An IEP will include: a) a description of your child's educational disability and how the disability affects your child in school, b) your child's strengths, c) your child's current level(s) of performance in areas to be addressed by the IEP, d) supports necessary to assist your child in receiving an appropriate education, and e) goals for your child during the term of the IEP and how they will be measured.
6. Who develops my child's IEP?
The IEP is developed at an IEP Team meeting, by the following participants:
- the Special Education Facilitator,
- parent(s) or guardians,
- student when appropriate (usually from grade 8 on),
- your child's teacher,
- other individuals, at your discretion and at the discretion of your child's school. The District may invite a therapist or psychologist or other service provider. You may invite a specialist who knows your child and understands the disability, or a family friend who you want to help you in the process. It is important for parents and guardians to be active Team members in this process.
7. When is the IEP meeting held, and may I attend?
Parents have the right to participate in the meeting where their child's IEP is developed. The school will make every effort to schedule the IEP meeting at a time that is convenient for parents and other IEP team members. If the school suggests a time that makes it impossible for you to attend, explain your schedule to the Facilitator making the arrangements and an alternate time or date will be arranged.
IDEIA makes provisions for the changing needs and educational growth of children. At least once a year a meeting must be scheduled with you to review your child's progress and develop your child's next IEP.
8. What occurs during an IEP meeting?
During the IEP team meeting, the teachers and therapists will discuss your child's progress and talk about the proposed goals for your child for the next IEP. The teachers and therapists should explain why the team proposes certain special education and/or related services (such as Speech/Language therapy) for your child, and you should be comfortable with these ideas before you sign the IEP. If you hear something about your child, which is surprising to you, or different from the way you perceive your child, you will want to bring this to the attention of the other members of the team. As a parent, you are encouraged to work closely with the other team members and to share ideas about your child's educational needs.
Before you sign the IEP, ask any questions you have, so you are sure that you understand what is being said. It is important for you, the parent or guardian, to understand the IEP in its entirety. It is helpful to remember that the IEP can be changed. If you are unsure about some of the ideas being presented, ask that a follow-up IEP meeting be scheduled to monitor progress.
9. Is it the school's responsibility to ensure that my child reaches all the goals in the IEP?
No. The IEP sets out the individualized instruction to be provided to your child. The school is responsible for providing the instructional services listed in the IEP and monitoring the progress of your child throughout the year.
If any member of the Team feels that goals are not being met and/ or appropriate progress is not being made, they can request a Team meeting to discuss their concerns and any possible next steps.
10. What if I disagree with the school about what is appropriate for my child?
In all cases where family and school disagree, it is important for both sides to be able to discuss their concerns and come to a compromise, at least temporarily. It is usually possible to agree on a plan and then to establish a time frame for trying it out and assessing progress. The trial period may be very helpful in coming to a comfortable agreement on how to help your child, and it allows everyone involved to be part of the decision making process.
Even if your child has been receiving special education services for some time, you have the right to disagree with the school's decisions concerning new IEPs or educational placements for your child. It is important to know that before the school system can place your child in a special education program for the first time you must give your written consent.
If disagreements cannot be resolved, parents have the right to request and to file for a Due Process Hearing. This process will involve the New Hampshire State Department of Education in the resolution of the dispute. This process is explained in the Procedural Safeguards for Students with Disabilities booklet.
11. Who should I contact if my child is too young for elementary school?
Parents who have children who are three, four, or five years old should contact the Derry Early Education Program (DEEP) at 437-5942. The Child Find Coordinator will send a referral packet and schedule a meeting to discuss the parent's concerns.
Parents, who have children younger than three years of age, may call Region 10 at 893- 1299 if they have concerns abut their child's development. Region 10 will give the parent a choice of two Early Intervention (EI) Agencies (Children's Pyramid or Easter Seals) who evaluate children younger than 3 years old. If a child does need Early Intervention services, the EI agency will provide services until the child turns three years old. The school district is notified before the child's third birthday. At that time, the Child Find Coordinator from the Derry Early Education Program (DEEP) will help to transition services from EI to the school district so that there is no lapse in services. Parents should speak with their family doctor, as well.
12. Where can I get more information?
Sources for parents to contact to obtain assistance in understanding the provisions of the IDEIA are:
- Student Services Department of the Derry Cooperative School District, 18 So. Main St., Derry, NH 03038 Telephone 432-1215 www.sau10.org
- The New Hampshire Department of Education, 101 Pleasant St., Concord, NH 03301 Telephone 271-3494, TDD Access: Relay NH 711 www.ed.state.nh.us
- The Parent Information Center (PIC), PO Box 2405, Concord, NH 03301 Telephone 224-7005. www.picnh.org
- The Disabilities Rights Center, 18 Low Ave, Concord, NH 03301, Telephone 228-0432 or 1-800-834-1721 (both lines are voice & TTY). www.drcnh.org
- A list of resources is available on the Derry Cooperative School District website. www.sau10.org.
The complete list of Special Education FAQs is also available in pdf format.