Special Education

Special Education and the Law

As a parent of a child in special education, or a professional serving the needs of children in special education, it is imperative that you have the ability to gain access to all laws that affect exceptional children and their parents.

Attending an IEP Meeting

Attending an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting, especially for the first time, can be overwhelming to parents. Suddenly, a team of educators is describing your child with unfamiliar terminology, acronyms, test names, and numbers like scaled scores, standard scores, percentages, and age and/or grade equivalents!

Then, that evening you decide to review your child’s report. For such a time as this, the Bell Curve can help put everything in perspective. The Bell Curve Chart is a valuable reference point to translate the numbers into categories for understanding a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Addressing your child weaknesses through his/her strengths and preferred learning styles improves educational success.

Know Your Rights

Note: Bring this manualto every IEP meeting, because it sends a strong message that you KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.

“”THIS IS IT! I took this manual to every IEP meeting and found it an invaluable source of information when I was fighting to obtain special education services for my son. You will find references to California State and Federal special education laws in this manual. Even if you do not live in California, I think you will find this manual very helpful as it will give you ideas what to ask for, what other states are providing in the way of special ed and will give you some valuable ideas as to what area’s you should do more research in as to specific laws pertaining to your state.”



Extensive and comprehensive sites, including the United States Department of Education, are available online to provide you with the most current information on special education and the law.

The following are the areas of special education laws that affect individuals with disabilities:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
  • Goals 2000: Educate America Act
  • Government Resources
  • Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA 97)
  • Landmark Cases in Special Education
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
  • Perkins Vocational Education Act
  • Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act
  • State Education Departments
  • Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act

Qualifying Disabilities for Special Education Services:

  • ADD / ADHD
  • AUTISM / Pervasive Developmental Disorder - PDD
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Gifted / Talented
  • Hearing Impaired
  • Mental Retardation
  • Other Health Impaired
  • Orthopedically Impaired
  • Speech / Language Impaired
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visually Impaired

Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the particular bent of the GENIUS of each.


I.D.E.A.’s Definition of “Learning Disability”

Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, defines a specific learning disability as…

“…a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.”

However, learning disabilities do not include, “…learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing or motor disabilities, or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.” 34 Code of Federal Regulations 300.7(c)(10)