The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities. http://idea.ed.gov/
Once you have familiarized yourself with your rights, keep the following in mind when advocating for your child:
- No one knows your child better than you and your recorded observations are the best source of diagnosing his condition.
- You have the right to be respected and to make decisions for your child. The best possible treatment for autism occurs with early diagnosis and intervention. Your records of your child’s responses to stimuli should be the blueprint for a treatment plan.
- You have the right to be heard because you are more of an authority on your child than any professional caregiver.
- Your observations of your child are valid. As the primary caregiver of your child, you see things that may be overlooked in a diagnostic situation.
- You have the right to request an evaluation of your child and the right to be involved from start to finish if you suspect a developmental problem.
Infants and toddlers through the age of two are eligible for care through Early Intervention Services. To qualify your child must undergo a free evaluation. These services are available through the same law that makes special education services available—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Children over the age of three are eligible for assistance through school based early intervention and special needs programs.
If your child’s assessment reveals a developmental problem, you have the right to work with an intervention treatment provider to create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
You have the right to invite those who know your child best to be on the Individual Education Plan Team (IEP). This may include family members, a physician, teachers or others you feel most likely to understand your child’s needs.
You have the right to disagree with the school system’s recommendations and seek outside evaluation. Free or low-cost legal representation is available if you cannot come to an agreement with the school evaluators.