Child with special needs
U.S. Department of Education

Child with special needs

I have a child with special needs.  How do I determine if the school is providing my child with an appropriate education and services?  What kind of help is available if I am not satisfied with the education my child is receiving?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) aims to ensure that all children receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and special services to assist in meeting their educational needs. 
Under Part B of IDEA, each state and its public agencies must ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to all students with specified disabilities in mandated age ranges, and that the rights and protections of Part B are extended to eligible students and their parents.  FAPE includes, among other elements, the provision of special education and related services provided at no cost to parents, in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP).  The IEP is the major mechanism for ensuring a child receives FAPE. 

The IEP serves as a blueprint for the child's special education needs and any related services.  The IEP team consists of the parent(s), the student (if appropriate), at least one of the child’s regular classroom education teachers, at least one of the child's special education teachers, and a qualified representative of the public agency. 

If the parent and the local school district staff cannot agree on the content of the IEP, the parent can ask for a due process hearing, and an impartial hearing officer can make an independent decision in order to resolve any disagreements.  A mediation process must be available when a due process hearing is requested. 

More information about IDEA is available.  Additional resources for information and assistance are listed below:

  • Parent Center Hub (formerly known as NICHCY): This web resource provides families, students, educators, and others with information on disability-related topics regarding children and youth, birth through 21.  You can also locate organizations and agencies within your state that address disability-related issues.
  • State Department of Special Education: If the local school district is unable or unwilling to solve the problems you experience, states are the next step.


Topic Information
  • Topic #: 28022-570
  • Date Created: 12/31/2012
  • Last Modified Since: 01/18/2017
  • Viewed: 3352

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