The educational system in the United States has not always provided comparable education to students with disabilities. Not until 1975, when congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, were public school systems were required to provide “free and appropriate” education to children with disabilities. This law is currently referred to as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). These laws provide a legal precedence to ensure students with disabilities receive special education services (Hallahan, Kauffman & Pullen, 2012, p. 16).
IDEA defines special education as “specifically designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to address the unique needs of a student with a disability. The IDEA identifies instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; including instruction in physical education” (Gibb &Dyches, 2007 p. 1). IDEA requires all states provide special education to students with disabilities between the ages of three and 21, identifying five specific requirements, which are (1) free and quality education meeting the states educational standards for students from preschool through secondary-school; (2) a variety of valid assessments and instruments utilized to collect information on a students developmental, academic and functional abilities; (3) if evidence indicates a student is in need of special education an individualized education program (IEP) is developed; (4) student placement in the least restrictive environment appropriate for their disability : appropriate accommodations, with necessary modifications and other services to ensure students are in the most optimal LRE; and (5) reliable and appropriate communication between the school, the students and their parents about their legal rights to special education and legal protocols in place to safeguard students (Gibb &Dyches, 2007 p. 1-4).
Developing an IEP
Any parent or teacher can request an evaluation and assessment of their student. Next a prereferral team (PRT) is created; this includes special education teachers, the general education teachers, psychologists and administrators. The PRT will first implement a variety of alternative instructional methods and strategies (Hallahan et al., 2012, p. 25). If the student continues to have difficulties in school he or she will have a complete special education evaluation completed. If the assessment denotes the need for special education services an IEP is created. An IEP is a “legal document” that creates an individualized education plan for students with disabilities and it also serves as a “communication tool” between parents and teachers regarding the student’s progress. All students between ages of three and 21 with disabilities and receiving special education services should have an IEP created for them and this document is reviewed annually. An IEP team comprised of the child’s parents, a range of teachers including...