I have a long list of things parents have asked me to write about and one of the big things is simply access to educational entitlements. So, let's talk a bit about educational entitlements for children 3-21 years old. An entitlement is a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract. Your child does has a legal right to an education; it is the law. And, if you know these laws, you will get the services your child needs.
The Federal Government defines your child's rights in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) http://idea.ed.gov/ and these rights are overseen by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html. The two of the most important pieces of IDEA are the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and the right to a FAPE in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). These two pieces say that it is the law that all children with autism must be given an education that is free and meets their individual needs, and this education has to be provided in the school and classroom that they would be in were they not to have a diagnosis of autism.
Federal law says the public schools, starting at age three, have to teach children with autism in a way that the children can learn and it has to be free! The Federal Government goes on to say that, as much as possible, children with autism have the right to be in their neighborhood school in a class of their peers and have the right to all the supports they need to do so successfully.
So, it is critical that once your child has medical diagnoses of autism, you let your school administration know you want a meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child’s Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or your going to call the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)!
For more individualized information and support go to http://www.BrightFutures.com.
Here's to Bright Futures for all children!