Cerebral Palsy and legal rights.
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy and Legal RightsCerebral PalsyCerebral PalsyCerebral PalsyCerebral PalsyCerebral Palsy

Having a child with cerebral palsy means, among many other things, that you must be well versed in the matters of the laws relevant to you and your child. There are laws in place that guarantee certain rights essential to the fruitful life of a cerebral palsied child, such as the right to an education, to live and work in the community, laws that help provide medical and financial assistance, and laws that influence your long-term planning for your family.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Knowing what your child’s rights are means being able to help your child reach his or her full potential through education, special services, and training. These laws not only guarantee rights to education or independent life, but they distinguish between appropriate behavior and illegal discrimination. Knowing the difference between these two can mean your being able help your child by asserting his or her rights as prescribed by law.

Every disorder and situation is different, and so while your family will absolutely have experiences specific to dealing with cerebral palsy, there are no laws that singularly deal with the disorder. The laws that pertain to your child with cerebral palsy can be found among the same laws that apply to all disabled persons. The laws that give your child the right to his or her education are numerable and complex, and vary greatly depending on your locale, and so the following will be a mere overview of some of the most important aspects of these laws. If you desire a more in-depth understanding of these laws, contact your local United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCP) or local government offices.

The right to an education is one of the most important rights granted to persons with cerebral palsy. It wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that disabled children were allowed in “mainstream” schools. Before then, they were generally excluded from public schools, and often sent away from their communities and families. But in the 1960’s, federal, state, and local governments launched programs and began drafting laws to provide disabled children with educational opportunities – even today, these laws are continually revisited and improved upon.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) is probably the most influential law governing the disabled child’s right to an education. Initially enacted in 1975, and considerably amended in 1997, IDEA is administered under the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and has immeasurably improved academic opportunities for nearly all children with disabilities. Under IDEA, each state is qualified for federal funding as long as the state’s special education program meets the criterion established by IDEA and regulations given by DOE. These standards established through IDEA are at the core of IDEA’s importance – they require that a state demonstrate that it provides all disabled children with a “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” in accordance with IDEA’s guidelines. States that receive funding must, at the very least, provide approved special education services, opportunities for participation in the regular curriculum (called mainstreaming, or inclusion), and a variety of procedural rights to the families affected by a disability. The promise of federal funding has been so enticing, all states have begun to provide special education for disabled children, including those with cerebral palsy.

IDEA is not the cure-all to special education, however. The act only requires that states meet the minimum standards in special education in order to receive funding. While some states have indeed gone above and beyond these minimal guidelines, it is not required of them to provide the most ideal educational environment for a child with a disability, nor is there a requirement for uniformity in America’s special education programs. Because each state has its own special education program, certain aspects of the programs will vary, such as the quality of instructional materials and the ration of student to teacher. In order to be sure of the quality of your state’s special education program, check with the intake or placement officer of the school’s special education department to determine precisely which programs, classes, and services would be offered to your child.

As mentioned above, IDEA requires a state to provide “free appropriate public education.” “Free” means that, no matter your economic situation, your child is guaranteed his or her education at public cost, including all special needs he or she might have. If for some reason the state is unable to provide your child with an appropriate environment for his or her education, the state will, at it’s own expense, place your child in a private program. If you should decide that it’s in your child’s best interests to place him or her in a private program and the state does not approve that program for you child, you may have to shoulder the total cost of his or her special education.

While it’s true that IDEA doesn’t require states to provide the best special education programs available, in order to receive funding, a state must meet certain goals set by IDEA. A state must establish measurable performance goals for children to prove that the program is achieving “educational success” that will help lead the child to eventual economic independence, community living, and adult employment. Under IDEA, each state is held responsible for the efficacy of its special education services.

 IDEA specifies that an appropriate education is composed of “special education and related services.” “Special education” is defined as lessons expressly designed to meet the exclusive needs of the child with disabilities, offered in a range of different environments, such as regular education classrooms, separate classrooms, home schooling, or instruction in private schools, institutions, or hospitals. Supplementary aides and services may be offered to facilitate a disabled child’s participation in the regular classroom. These educational services are supplied by the school district at public cost through the regular education instructors, special education instructors, therapists and other professionals employed by the district.  “Related services” are classified as transportation and other developmental, supportive, and corrective assistance necessary to permit the child to profit from special education.

IDEA also stipulates that a child must receive instruction in the “least restrictive environment” possible. The least restrictive environment would be one in which your child had the highest possible level of involvement in the regular curriculum as well as the most possible contact with other non-disabled children at school. In this manner, IDEA has become an important tool in the abolishment of the long-held historical custom of segregating children with disabilities.

 Under IDEA, a child is covered from the age of three until at least 18. In states that allow people without disabilities to attend school until the age of 21, the same must hold true for those who have disabilities. In accordance with IDEA, if a child’s needs indicate that he or she necessitates year-round instruction in order for his or her education to qualify as a “free appropriate education,” the state must provide more than the customary 180-day school year. In many states, the need for year-round education is determined by whether or not your child would likely lose a significant amount of the information acquired during the school year, referred to as regression. If your child is likely to regress, as is the case with many children with cerebral palsy, summer schooling will be provided at cost to the state.

While IDEA guarantees the right to your child’s education, it cannot manifest one. Only you can bring that opportunity to fruition and make certain that your child receives the special education and services that he or she may need

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IFSP, IEP, IHP, Legal Rights and Special Education.