Once a learning problem is suspected, ask your child's school staff about the free, special educational services (evaluation and, if appropriate, treatment) mentioned earlier. Sometimes teachers or principals are reluctant to request a consultation or make a referral. If you feel strongly that your child's needs are not being met, persevere.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Public school systems must make special services available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal statute enacted in 1975. In order to receive federal funds, every state and school district must have a procedure for identifying, assessing, and planning an educational program for these youngsters, from age three to twenty-two. This law covers not only children with learning disabilities, but also those with perceptual problems (hearing or visual impairments), cerebral palsy or other brain injuries, intellectual disability, orthopedic problems affecting mobility, and serious behavioral and emotional difficulties that can interfere with the process of education.
This law provides five basic rights:
- A free, appropriate public education
- An individual educational plan (IEP) based on a complete developmental assessment and approved by parents
- Access to records or the right of parents to review the child's educational records
- Due process, or giving parents the right to participate in the evaluation and decision-making process
- The least restrictive educational environment (placing the child in a learning situation that is as normal and convenient as conditions allow)