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Your Educational Rights as a Parent of a Child with a Disability

It’s tough as a parent of a child with a disability. When your child starts school, you hope that the teachers and school staff have your child’s best interests in mind. But how do you know if your child with special needs is getting the educational services he or she deserves?

Children with special needs have rights that allow them to receive distinct services through the public school system. The most important thing to remember when advocating for your child is that students with disabilities must have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that have offers of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), and that they are entitled to acquire their education within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Under federal law, these rights are guaranteed, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990).


When your child has a disability, the school district must write an IEP for him or her, which includes an offer of FAPE. This offer is a binding contract for services between the school district and the parent. This means that if a school does not give the services that were agreed upon within the IEP, the institution is in violation of the law. When a school is in violation of the law, the penalties may involve paying for the student’s legal services, and the school district may have to provide services in compensation for the lack of services.

Least Restrictive Environment

If your child has special needs, the school also must offer education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). By law, the district must display that it has made an effort to provide services to your child in a classroom setting that is as close to the general education setting as possible. Districts must also attempt to include him or her in the general education classroom as much as possible, unless your child has severe medical or physical impairments that require specialized staff.


IDEA is a federal law that oversees all special education services for children in the United States. In order for a child to be eligible for special education under IDEA, his or her school performance must be adversely affected by one of the following conditions:

  1. Specific learning disability (SLD)
  2. Other health impairment
  3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  4. Emotional disturbance
  5. Speech or language impairment
  6. Visual impairment, including blindness
  7. Deafness
  8. Hearing impairment
  9. Deaf-blindness
  10. Orthopedic impairment
  11. Intellectual disability
  12. Traumatic brain injury
  13. Multiple disabilities


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all schools, other than those operated by religious organizations, to meet the needs of children with physical or psychiatric disorders. It prohibits the denial of educational services, programs or activities to students with disabilities and also prohibits discrimination against your child with a disability.

You should never feel guilty about being demanding and advocating for your child. Insisting that your child receive these services is your duty as a parent. You should also not allow school officials to pressure you into remaining quiet. You must be proactive, even though it seems daunting.

However, the process can be difficult and confusing. If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.

American Disability Association is dedicated to the wellbeing and protection of children with disabilities and actively provides support to enhance their quality of life. Whether you are dealing with federal or state benefits or struggling with a school district to get proper education for your child, we have the resources to help you. Many individuals and families managing a disability are not aware of the wide array of services available to them, or they do not know how to apply for these benefits in a way that is likely to succeed.

Contact us for help. Dial (888) 323-2133 or email us at [email protected]