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LEGAL ISSUES

Public Law 94-142
Also known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this law promotes a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for children ages 5 through 21 with disabilities. The Act mandates that the child must be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) to receive this education. Parents are also guaranteed due process hearings for classification and placement for the child. This law states that related services should be provided for this education. These related services include:

Public Law 99-457
Renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, this law reauthorizes Public Law 94-142, but mandates that a free and appropriate public education must be available for children ages 3 through 5 years. The law also encourages that states provide these services to children birth to 3 years. The law includes six parts:

  • a public school, elementary or secondary, may not exclude any qualifying person with a disability
  • a thorough assessment of the nature and degree of the specific disability
  • development of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
  • education in the least restrictive environment
  • right to due process
  • the rights of the parents to be involved in decision making

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)
The IFSP is for children ages birth-to-three. The plan is developed with input from professionals (speech pathologist, audiologist, pediatrician, psychologist, physical therapist) as well as the parents, and is renewed annually. The following items are included in an IFSP:

  1. A description of the child's current level of development in the areas of physical, cognitive, communicative, psychosocial, and adaptive or self-help behaviors.
  2. A statement of the family's concerns, priorities, and resources as they relate to the development of their child with exceptionalities.
  3. A statement of expected outcomes to be achieved for the child and family by the appropriate professionals, with procedures, timelines, and criteria and review/evaluation processes defined.
  4. A description of the specific early intervention services that the child is to receive, including frequency, duration, location, and method of intervention service delivery.
  5. A date of initiation of the services, and how long the child is to receive the services.
  6. The name of the service coordinator responsible for implementing and coordinating services among agencies and professionals.
  7. A description of a transition plan to appropriate preschool services after age three as necessary.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
The IEP is for children ages three-and-up. Similar to the IFSP, the IEP is developed with input from professionals (speech pathologist, audiologist, pediatrician, psychologist, physical therapist) as well as the parents, and is renewed annually. The following items are included in an IEP:

  1. A statement of the current levels of educational performance, usually including:
    • general intelligence
    • academic performance
    • communicative status
    • social and emotional status
    • vision, hearing, and motor abilities
    • adaptive behavior
    • physical examination by a licensed physician


  2. A statement of annual goals, including short-term instructional objectives.
  3. A statement of the specific special education and all related services to be provided to the child, how often and for how long, and the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular education programs.
  4. The projected date for initiation and anticipated duration of such services.
  5. Appropriate objective criteria and evaluation procedures and schedules for determining, on at least an annual basis, whether short-term instructional objectives are being achieved and current placement is appropriate.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This law, mandated in 1990, supports the equality of disabled people by prohibiting discrimination in the following areas:

  • employment settings
  • state and local government agencies and public services
  • public accommodations
  • telecommunications

Remember: you are your child's BEST advocate!

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