03 Feb Educational decisions are extremely important for a special needs child.
Divorcing parents of special needs children should determine which parent will make educational decisions, or how disagreements between the parents will be resolved.
Children with disabilities should be afforded the same opportunities as children without disabilities when it involves educational programming and the ability to be as independent as possible. Families often struggle to overcome barriers that serve to exclude a child with a disability in school and social settings. To promote inclusion, parents must work together to seek opportunities for the child to participate in school and social events.
The task of finding appropriate educational supports is often a challenge for parents of children with disabilities. Divorcing parents should collaborate in selecting appropriate educational programs and making decisions, taking into consideration the time needed to research the appropriateness of the program, the supports that the school is suggesting, and other supports outside of the school day, such as tutoring or structured remediation that will support learning.
If the child is of school age and qualifies for special education, the school system will identify the disability under the eligibility criteria outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Public Law 108-446, 20 USC §1400. This law provides individualized services to students in public schools and emphasizes inclusion of students with disabilities to the extent possible with non-disabled peers. Children who are identified with a disability, and who need services, receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which includes making decisions on academic goals, placement, accommodations, assessments, and other needed supports. The IEP is developed with input from both school personnel and the family and is based on the child’s present levels of performance.
For other students whose disabilities may require more minor support related to their education, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides eligible students with accommodations and modifications to assist them in the school environment. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. Under this law parents also participate in meetings where appropriate placement and services are determined.
Tessmer Tip: It is important for divorcing parents to have a final divorce decree that clearly states which parent will make educational decisions, or in cases where these decisions are shared, how parents can overcome an impasse when disagreements occur.