Free and Appropriate Public Education for Children With Cerebral Palsy

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connected gears labeled special educationChildren with cerebral palsy have the right to free and appropriate public education. Two laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), establish this right for all children with disabilities in the United States. As a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you should know what to expect from your Kentucky school district, what services are beyond the scope of the law, and how to protect your child’s rights.

Free and Appropriate Public Education

If your child has cerebral palsy and needs specially designed instruction to access the general school curriculum, your child should qualify for special education services under IDEA. A school-based special education team, known in Kentucky as an Admission and Release Committee (ARC) will decide whether your child is eligible for special education. The ARC should include:

  • You
  • Your child, once your child is old enough to participate
  • Your child’s classroom teacher
  • A special education teacher
  • Someone from the school who is knowledgeable about the services offered by the school district and who has the authority to commit financial resources. This could be a special education supervisor or school principal, for example.
  • Appropriate related service providers, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists
  • Other people you or the school district invite

Once your child is found eligible for special education, the team will develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Your child’s ARC will create a plan that includes:

  • What services your child gets. This may include specialized instruction, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, for example.
  • How often those services are provided. The amount of time your child should receive each service on the IEP should be indicated.
  • The type of service provider needed.  A general education teacher, special education teacher, aide, or another service provider should be noted.
  • Where the services will be provided. The law requires every ARC to consider the most appropriate environment for every child and to place the child in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. For educational purposes, this means considering how much time will be spent in the general classroom and carefully considering whether any time outside of the general education classroom is necessary.
  • Annual measurable goals. You will receive progress reports about the annual goals, in addition to regular report cards, so that you are informed of your child’s progress.
  • Accommodations. Accommodations should be made if your child needs them to access the general curriculum and to participate in school life. For example, if your child needs extra time to complete tasks, that should be included in the IEP.

Sometimes, children with cerebral palsy do not qualify for special education because they do not need specialized instruction. If your child is not eligible for an IEP, he may still require related services and accommodations and may qualify for a 504 plan.

What’s Beyond the Scope of Special Education

Special education provides many benefits for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. The services that may be provided under special education, however, are limited by law. Only the services that allow the child to access and make reasonable progress in the general curriculum should be included in an IEP. Therefore, if a child may benefit from physical therapy, aquatic therapy, play therapy, or occupational therapy but does not need that service to access the general curriculum, the service should not be included as part of the special education plan.

Protect All of Your Child’s Rights

It is up to you, as a parent, to protect all of your child’s rights. You must fight to make sure that he gets not only the special education services he deserves, but also medical treatment, compensation for pain and suffering, and other compensation if your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence.

Our experienced Kentucky cerebral palsy lawyers are here to help you protect your child’s rights and recover the fair damages that will allow you to get your child all of the therapies your child needs. Call us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your child’s rights and potential legal recovery.

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