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What is Special Education? Special Education Law Explained

Special Education is a federal mandate. A groundbreaking piece of legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has mandated that public schools provide specialized educational services for students with Intellectual Disabilities.

The letter of the law promises two very important aspects of special education.

1) Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):

Definition: Essentially, this aspect of the law stipulates that a student's Individualized Education Plan must address the student's specific individual educational needs for no charge in the public school setting. Educational needs are defined in the context of the grade-level content and standards that are covered in the general eduction classroom. The plan must be an individualized step-by-step road map towards addressing grade-level content and standard.

Translation: The IEP must identify the student's unique educational needs and provide a detailed plan for covering the gaps, helping the student make gains towards addressing grade-level standards.

2) Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):

Definition: Special Education services must address the needs of students with disabilities in a setting with access to the general education population, curriculum, and physical resources (whenever possible).

Translation: Special Education must be administered without needlessly segregating the special needs students into a seperate physical space from the general population of students.

In summary, the IDEA was crafted with the intention of providing equitable educational opportunities for students with disabilities. Knowing your child's rights (as a parent) and understanding your legal and ethical obligations (as a teacher) helps to ensure the student gets the best education available.

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