Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alphabet Soup

It would be great if parents could just say a few magic words and suddenly their child's school would provide whatever is needed to help their child learn. Clearly, this doesn't happen in the real world, but sometimes knowing the right vocabulary can facilitate communication with school personnel and make it clear that a parent is knowledgable about his or her child's educational rights. When we speak to parents whose children need supportive services from their public schools, we try to equip them with some of the complicated vocabulary of the special education world. It's certainly not magic, but it can help.

For example, an IEE is an independent educational evaluation, like those we provide here at the Yellin Center. Parents have the right to seek an IEE when they disagree with the evaluation provided by their public school system or if the public school refuses to evaluate a child even when the parent requests such an evaluation.

LRE stands for least restrictive environment, the right of every child under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to be educated in a setting as close to a regular classroom in a regular school as would be appropriate for that student. So, when a students's IEP (Individual Education Program) provides that a student will be educated in a self-contained class, the IEP must explain that a regular classroom was considered for this student, but rejected. Similar requirements exist for all settings, up to and including a specialized school.

FERPA is a term that parents sometimes hear tossed about at meetings. It stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and governs how educational records are to be handled to assure the privacy of the information they contain. Sometimes schools take this law too far and make it difficult for individual teachers to access a student's IEP because it is locked away in an office and not accessible to teachers.

Perhaps the most important acronym for children who struggle with learning is FAPE -- which stands for Free Appropriate Public (as in publicly funded) Education. This is what every child who is eligible for services under the IDEA is supposed to receive. It doesn't promise an ideal education which is, of course, what every parents wants for their child. But it does require consideration of a child's educational and other needs and should provide ways for each child to make adequate progress.

There are lots of other terms that make up the world of educational services for students in public schools. We'll share some others in future blogs.

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