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Obtaining services for special needs children under IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal statute that was passed in 1975 with the goal of ensuring that certain categories of impaired children were given necessary assistance with learning disabilities. While the goal of the act is laudable, the procedures that are necessary to qualify a child for benefits can be complex.

The first step is to determine that a child in fact has a learning disability to which IDEA applies. The categories of disability are autism, deaf-blindness, dearness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment other health impairment, including ADHD, specific learning disability, including dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, and other learning issues, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment, including blindness. In addition to suffering from one or more of these disabilities, the child must also need special education in order to make satisfactory progress in school.

The child must first be comprehensively evaluated to determine whether the disability interferes with the child's ability to learn. The child's school will then hold an eligibility meeting to determine whether the child requires special education. If the child qualifies for assistance, the school will work with the parents to develop an Individualized Education Program. An IEP is a legally enforceable document that lists the educational goals for the child and the services that the school will provide to help the child achieve those goals.

Given the complex and occasional uncertainty of the 13 qualifying conditions, a determination of a child's eligibility for IDEA benefits is often the subject of an emotional dispute. Any parent who feels that their child has been unjustly denied IDEA benefits may wish to get more information about special needs planning cases.

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