Special Education Questions: The IDEA, Services, Evaluations and IEPs

San Antonio special education advocate attorney
Special Education Law Questions

What is the IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (or IDEA) is the federal law that guarantees a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities.

It ensures that the provided special education and related services are designed to meet the unique needs of the individual child, preparing them for further education, employment, and independent living.

The law aims to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents and to assist local and federal governments in providing for the education of all children with disabilities.

Does my child have a right to special education services?

Yes. The Individuals with Disabilities Act guarantees free special education services to all children with disabilities.

Who is Eligible for Special Education Services?

Under the IDEA, a child with a disability means a child having:

  • an intellectual disability,
  • a hearing impairment, including deafness,
  • a speech or language impairment,
  • a visual impairment, including blindness,
  • a serious emotional disturbance,
  • an orthopedic impairment,
  • autism,
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • an other health impairment,
  • a specific learning disability, including a perceptual disability, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia,
  • deaf-blindness,
  • or multiple disabilities,

And that child needs special education and related services because of that disability.

What is an Individualized Education Program?

Generally speaking, an “individualized education program” or “IEP” is a written statement for a child with a disability that includes the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, a statement of measurable annual goals and how those goals will be measured, the special education and related services to be provided to the child, an assessment plan and, depending on the child’s age, a transition plan.

Does a parent need to consent to an evaluation?

Before conducting an evaluation to determine if a child qualifies as a child with a disability, the school district must provide written notice of the proposed evaluation and obtain informed consent for the evaluation from the parent of the child.

What if I disagree with the school’s evaluation?

Parents who disagree with a school district’s evaluation have the right to seek an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense.

If a parent requests an IEE at public expense, the school district must, without unnecessary delay, either: (i) file a due process complaint to request a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate; or (ii) ensure that an IEE is provided at public expense, unless the school district demonstrates in a hearing that the evaluation obtained by the parent did not meet agency criteria.

What are related services?

Under the IDEA, “related services” means transportation, and other such services as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.
Where appropriate for your child, this may include:

  • speech-language pathology and audiology services,
  • interpreting services,
  • psychological services,
  • physical and occupational therapy,
  • recreation, including therapeutic recreation,
  • social work services,
  • school nurse services,
  • counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling,
  • orientation and mobility services, and
  • medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes.