ERIC Identifier: ED318176
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children
Rights and Responsibilities of Parents of Children with Handicaps. ERIC
Public Law 94-142 clearly defined the rights of children with handicaps
and their parents. A fundamental provision of the law is the right of parents
to participate in the educational decision-making process. This includes
the right to:(1) A free appropriate public education for your child. Free
means at no cost to you as parents. Appropriate means meeting the unique
educational needs of your child.
(2) Be notified whenever the school wishes to evaluate your child, wants
to change your child's educational placement, or refuses your request for
an evaluation or a change in placement.
(3) Initiate an evaluation if you think your child is in need of special
education or related services.
(4) Informed consent. Informed consent means you understand and agree
in writing to the evaluation and educational program decisions for your
child. Your consent is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time.
(5) Obtain an independent evaluation if you disagree with the outcome
of the school's evaluation.
(6) Request a reevaluation if you suspect your child's present educational
placement is no longer appropriate. The school must reevaluate your child
at least every 3 years, but your child's educational program must be reviewed
at least once during each calendar year.
(7) Have your child tested in the language he or she knows best. For
example, if your child's primary language is Spanish, this is the language
in which he or she must be tested. Also, students who are deaf have the
right to an interpreter during the testing.
(8) Review all of your child's records. You may obtain copies of these
records, but the school may charge you a reasonable fee for making copies.
Only you, as parents, and those persons directly involved in the education
of your child will be permitted access to personal records. If you feel
that any of the information contained in your child's records is inaccurate
or misleading or violates the privacy or other rights of your child, you
may request that the information be changed. If the school refuses your
request, you then have the right to request a hearing in order to challenge
the questionable information in your child's records.
(9) Be fully informed by the school of all rights that are provided
to you under the law.
(10) Participate in the development of your child's individualized education
program (IEP). The school must make every possible effort to notify you
of the IEP meeting and then arrange it at a time and place that is convenient
for you. Remember, your child's IEP cannot be implemented without your
(11) Have your child educated in the least restrictive school setting
possible. Every effort should be made to develop an educational program
that will provide the greatest amount of contact with nonhandicapped children.
(12) Request a due process hearing to resolve differences with the school
that could not be resolved informally.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES, AS A PARENT, IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION PROCESS?
Parental responsibilities to ensure that a child's rights are being protected
are less clearly defined than are parental rights. These responsibilities
vary considerably depending on the nature of the child's handicapping condition
and other factors. In accepting these responsibilities, some of the following
suggestions may be helpful:(1) Develop a partnership with the school or
agency. You are now an important member of the team. Share relevant information
about your child's education and development. Your observations and suggestions
can be a valuable resource to aid your child's progress.
(2) Ask for clarification of any aspect of the program that is unclear
to you. Educational and medical terms can be confusing, so do not hesitate
(3) Make sure you understand the program specified on the IEP before
agreeing to it or signing it. Ask yourself whether or not what is planned
corresponds with your knowledge of your child's needs.
(4) Make sure your child is included in the regular school activities
program. Do not forget nonacademic areas such as lunch and recess and other
areas such as art, music, and physical education.
(5) Learn as much as you can about your rights and the rights of your
child. Ask the school to explain these rights as well as the policies and
regulations in effect in your district and state before you agree to a
special education program for your child.
(6) Monitor your child's progress. If your child is not progressing,
discuss it with the teacher and determine whether or not the program should
be modified. As a parent, you can initiate changes in your child's educational
(7) Discuss with the school or agency any problems that may occur with
your child's assessment, placement, or educational program. It is best
to try to resolve these problems directly with the agency, school, or district.
In some situations, you may be uncertain as to which direction you should
take to resolve a problem. Most states have protection and advocacy agencies
that can provide you with the guidance you need to pursue your case.
(8) Keep records. There may be many questions and comments about your
child that you will want to discuss, as well as meetings and phone conversations
you will want to remember. It is easy to forget information useful to your
child's development and education that is not written down.
(9) Join a parent organization. In addition to offering the opportunity
to share knowledge, experiences, and support, a parent group can be an
effective force on behalf of your child. Many times parents find that as
a group they have the power to bring about needed changes to strengthen
and broaden special services.
AS THE PARENT OF A CHILD WITH A HANDICAP, WHAT CAN YOU OFFER THE IEP PROCESS?
In the final analysis, parents of handicapped children should be involved
in the process as much as they want to be and as much as they can be. Varying
degrees of involvement are possible. The following are suggestions for
ways in which parents can become involved:(1) Before attending an IEP meeting,
make a list of things you want your child to learn. Discuss any differences
between your list and the school's or agency's list. Take notes about aspects
of your child's behavior that could interfere with the learning process.
Describe the methods you have found to be successful in dealing with these
(2) Bring any information the school or agency may not already have
to the IEP meeting. Examples include copies of medical records, past school
records, or test or evaluation results. Remember, reports do not say all
there is to say about a child. You can add real-life examples to demonstrate
your child's ability in certain areas.
(3) Find out what related services are being provided. Besides your
child's teacher, many other specialists and professionals may have contact
with your child through provision of related services. Ask each professional
to describe the kind of service he or she will be providing and what growth
you might expect to see as a result of these services.
(4) Ask what you can do at home to support the program. Many skills
the child learns at school can also be used at home. Ask to meet with the
teacher when your child is learning a new skill that could be practiced
(5) Make sure the goals and objectives on the IEP are specific. This
will ensure that everyone teaching your child is working toward the same
goals. Ask questions to make sure that you understand and agree with each
of the goals and objectives before signing the IEP.
(6) Periodically, ask for a report on your child's progress. After the
meeting is over, your job as parent is not finished. You should follow
your child's progress throughout the year.
(7) Regard your child's education as a cooperative effort. If at any
point you and the school cannot reach an agreement over your child's educational
and developmental needs, ask to have another meeting. This would allow
time for you and the school or agency to gather more information and data.
If after a second meeting there is still a conflict over your child's program,
you should ask for a state mediator or a due process hearing.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU?
Local and state education agencies have information to help guide you through
the special education process. Since there is great variation in the specific
criteria and procedures employed by school districts, it is important that
you familiarize yourself with the information they provide. You will find
your local director of special education and his or her staff helpful in
accessing such information and guiding you through the process.Additional
resources are available from national organizations. Some of them will
also be able to direct you to local and state chapters that can provide
more locally based support. Almost all of the states now have federally
supported parent information and training centers. Any of the contacts
cited here may be able to help you locate such a center in your state:
The Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States P.O. Box
6109, 2709 Avenue E East, Arlington, TX 76005
Children with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD), Suite 185, 1859 North
Pine Island Road, Plantation, FL 33322
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston,
Learning Disability Association, 5225 Grace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Handicaps, P.O.
Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013
The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH) 7010 Roosevelt
Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98115
United Cerebral Palsy Association, 7 PEN Plaza, Suite 804, New York,