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Parenting & Family

The following are past questions and answers from Matt Cohen on this topic.

What kind of "safety net" do parents have after their child has been terminated from special education?

I work with kids with special needs in grades K-8. When a child is exited from an IEP, parents often see this as a good thing intellectually, but emotionally they feel frightened.

"Where is my support system going?" they wonder, and, "What will I do now that I have no legal recourse?"

Do you have resources or suggestions for helping the parents transition?

Your question addresses parental concerns about the absence of a safety net when their child's special education eligibility is being terminated because the child has made adequate progress.

First, it is possible for a student that is making good progress and functioning at a level suggesting special education may no longer be needed to have an IEP that gradually reduces the level of service prior to formal termination. This can reduce the risk that the student goes from a needed level of support to no support and suffers regression or other problems as a result.

Another option for students in these situations is for the student to shift from an IEP to a 504 plan as an interim measure. This also allows for some greater degree of protection and/or attention as the student shifts from a higher level of special education service to regular services.

Finally, in many schools, a student should be able to receive a variety of study supports and other accommodations available to regular education students, even in the absence of formal special education eligibility or 504 status. In addition, if the student begins to experience serious problems after eligibility is terminated, the parents can request that the child be reevaluated for renewed special education or Section 504 eligibility.

Where can the parent of a child with disabilities find free legal help?

My son is 6 and has had an IEP since he was 3. He has continually had the same problems and the school has neglected to find him a placement. The school is making me feel intimidated and I need help for my son. Where can I get help for free since I am a parent on a low income?

Dear Joanna,

Every state has an organization funded by the federal government called a Parent Training and Information Center. The center in your area can be found by going to the website for the Alliance that provides support to these centers: www.taalliance.org. They have a search engine that will identify the center in your area.

The federal government also funds agencies to provide no-cost legal services to people with disabilities in each state, called protection and advocacy agencies. These agencies can be found at www.ndrn.org.

In addition, the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates, has a search-engine listing attorneys and advocates that advise and represent families in special education disputes around the country. Some of these people are employed by agencies that provide their services for free, while others are in private practice, but may provide services for free or on a sliding scale for individual cases.

Finally, your school district and the state education agency are required to provide you, on request, a copy of low-cost or no-cost legal service agencies in your state that provide assistance with special education disputes.