Special Education

Special education is defined by law as “specifically designed instruction that meets the unique needs of a child with a disability.” Depending on your child’s disability, the public school system offers a wide range of services and support, including special educationrelated servicestransition services, supplementary aids, testing accommodationsassistive technology and transitional supportive services. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was created in 1975 to entitle children with disabilities to “free and appropriate” education. In the past, many students with disabilities were placed in separate classes focusing on their needs and generally did not integrate with the general student population. However, IDEA was revised in 1997 to ensure that children with special abilities have access to a general curriculum, and new laws in Massachusetts require the districts to place students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible.

Trying to navigate the admissions process for a normal child is difficult. The process for obtaining the appropriate services for a child with disabilities is much more involved and time consuming. We can help. Good sources of information regarding your public school options include Federation for Children with Special Needs (www.fcsn.org), Massachusetts Association of Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (www.masspac.org), the Disability Law Center (617-723-8455) and Volunteer Lawyers Project (617-338-6790).