Now that you have an evaluation and diagnosis, what are the next steps for you to take to ensure that your child has the appropriate services at school in order to set him/her up for success despite his/her disorder?
Well, it starts with doing a lot of research and being the expert when it comes to educational laws not just in our country but in your state. It is important to know and to have ready information to reference so that you can advocate for your child. The more knowledgeable and prepared you are about laws and rights, the more successful you will be in negotiating and receiving the services and accommodations for your child from his/her school district.
To start, learn about IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). You can go to https://sites.ed.gov/idea/?src=pr for more information. In essence, IDEA is intended to provide a free appropriate public education (aka FAPE) to all children with disabilities, to protect these children & their families’ rights, and to improve the educational outcomes for all children with disabilities.
Next, learn about the different categories of disability under IDEA. This site summarizes the categories nicely – https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/special-education-basics/conditions-covered-under-idea. Depending on your child’s evaluation results and diagnosis, he/she may fall into one of these classifications. My son’s ODD and mood disorder puts him in the “emotional disturbance” (aka ED) classification. At first (and to this day at times), the word “disturbed” unnerves me because it conjures up very unpleasant thoughts but simply take as fact that this is the catch-all classification used for a wide range of mental disorders. It doesn’t make you or your child bad.
You should also do research on your State’s educational laws. For example, New Jersey has PRISE (Parental Rights In Special Education) – https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/form/prise/. Other States may have similar documents.
There are a lot of acronyms here (and more to follow) so become familiar with them because this is the lingo that school districts use when talking about special education and developing educational plans for disabled students.
Start to familiarize yourself with Section 504 and the IEP (individualized educational plan). Below are some useful sites for each. The last link below compares the two which should help you determine which direction you take to develop your child’s formal educational plan.
Finally, IDEA provides funding to each State to make available Parenting Training and Information Centers (or PTIs). To find a PTI in your State go to https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/. PTIs provide free information & support and can help answer any questions you have about legal advice, parental rights, specialists in your area, etc.