Helping Your Special Needs Child Succeed in School

special needs child

Education decisions are paramount when you are co-parenting a special needs child. Does your child have an Individualized Education Program (IEP)? Learn about a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on educational standards for disabled children with IEPs, and what this case could mean for your child.

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that children who have disabilities must be provided with more than a minimal educational benefit in their Individualized Education Programs or IEPs. IEPs are tailored to each child and these plans follow them throughout their educational careers. With the input of teachers, parents and other educational professionals the IEP is developed and updated each year to reflect the disabled child’s progress and what extra assistance they need going forward. The IEP also contains goals for the child to meet during the school year.

In the case before the US Supreme Court, Endrew F. V. Douglas County School District, the child, “Drew” had not met many of his IEP goals and had made little progress. Drew was autistic and his parents believed that he should be receiving more help under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or (IDEA).  Drew’s parents wanted the school district to give Drew the same opportunity to achieve success just as his schoolmates. But, the school district said that they were only obligated to give Drew the minimal benefit from his IEP and that that is what Drew got: the minimum.

The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with the school district and decided that, “The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” The court acknowledged that every child, whether in a typical classroom or not will have different goals, but that every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives for them.

Parents who are involved with their child’s education plan are more likely to push back at the district and get results when they believe their child’s IEP is insufficient. It can be more challenging when parents have separated or divorced, but the more separated parents are able to effectively co-parent, the better their special needs child will thrive in school.

When considering the best and most effective plan for your special needs child:

1. Talk to an expert. If you are unsure what type of educational plan will serve your child best, talk to a special education attorney or psychologist who specializes in working with families who are exploring the best educational opportunities for their child.

2. Plan for the future. Eventually, your child’s schooling will end. Will they be able to support themselves? Will they need a placement in an adult community? Talk to the Division of Developmental Disabilities as soon as you can to discuss what safeguards and parameters you and your child’s other parent can put in place today, so that when your child becomes an adult, they have as many supports in place as needed.

3. Consider a special needs trust which can provide for financial support now and can also provide for future costs such as medical expenses, college tuition and even food and housing for your special needs child in the future. A special needs trust is something both parents can contribute to even after divorce.

Working together, with your child’s other parent and with your child’s school district as soon as your child has been identified as needing and IEP will help your entire family get a jump on your child’s needs and will ensure that they receive an appropriate public education that they are guaranteed. Co-parenting peacefully and reasonably will help your child succeed at home, at school and into their future, regardless of their special needs.

Do you have questions about how to establish custody or child support, including trusts, for your special needs child? We can help. For experienced, compassionate legal care, please contact us to schedule an initial consultation with a family law attorney. Secure your child’s future. Call today: 888-888-0919.

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