Federal Laws Relating to Children with Disabilities

Wolery, Strain, and Bailey (1992) describe federal laws relating to children with disabilities:

"Services to young children with special needs are governed by federal law (e.g., P.L. 94-192 and P.L. 99-457), relevant federal regulations, and state laws and regulations. Unlike other educational programs that are more locally controlled, these federal laws dictate any decisions about curriculum and assessment. Some key provisions of these laws are important (Turnbull, 1990). All children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education, regardless of their skill levels and the severity of their disabilities. Unbiased testing, classification, and placement procedures must be used and must include parental notification and consent. Children must be placed in the least restrictive (most normalized) appropriate placement, meaning that to the extent possible, they should be educated with children who do not have disabilities. Parents have a right to participate in decisions related to their child's education and the policies of the state and local educational agencies. Parents also have the right to procedural due process, meaning that they can challenge the school's decisions and actions that affect their children. Finally, children have a right to an individualized and appropriate education--an Individualized Educational Program, or IEP. At a minimum, each IEP must include a summary of the child's present levels of functioning; annual goals; short-term instructional objectives; statement of the educational and related services needed, such as speech/language therapy or physical therapy; dates of initiation and expected duration of services; justification for the placement; and identification of individuals responsible for implementing the program (Turnbull, 1990). In addition, P.L. 99-457 encourages the inclusion of family goals in the IEP. The IEP should assume a central role in guiding the services that children receive; it should not be a document that is developed, signed, and rarely consulted." (p. 95)

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