FAPE -Free Appropriate Public Education
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) was signed into law; in 1990, it was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Under this critically important educational law, all children were given the right for a free appropriate public education (FAPE), regardless of handicap or disability.
Under the FAPE section of IDEA, schools are mandated to provide special education programs to those who qualify, as well as access to general education.
The history of special education in America is riddled with misconceptions, misunderstanding, and often the mistreatment of children with special needs.
The right to a free appropriate public education was denied to children with special needs before the introduction of EAHCA; children with special needs were either forced to be homeschooled or sent away to institutions that could handle the specific educational requirements.
Those options were expensive and often heartbreaking, as a parent had to choose between education or care, but rarely both at the same time.
When a Free Appropriate Public Education was made standard for all children, it caused some confusion between parents and schools, and that rift continues to this day.
Over time, the United States court system has defined precisely what FAPE consists of and what is excluded under the mandate.
Here’s a basic breakdown of what you can expect from FAPE:
FAPE – Myth vs. Fact
To begin, you should know that FAPE does not mean your child with special needs is entitled to a better public education than children who do not receive special education services. Take a look at what FAPE means for you and your child.
Your child might be charged for the special education services they will receive.
This is a myth. Because the act calls for a free appropriate education for all children, those children with special needs who require special education will be given such at no cost to them.
It will come at a cost to the public school system, and they cannot be charged for books, materials, or other equipment necessary to assist them during the school day.
Special education services are provided under guided supervision and direction, and there will never be a charge to the parent or guardian under the program guidelines.
Children with special needs are not required to pass state assessments and grade-appropriate work.
Myth. Your child will be provided with the accommodations and modifications necessary for them to meet their educational goals as outlined in their initial Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Special education services have to meet the standard of your state’s Education Authority and will be provided with every effort to ensure your child receives the proper instruction necessary for classroom success.
A child with special needs must have access to extracurricular activities.
This one is a fact. Under the FAPE section of IDEA, all children who receive special education services shall have access to the same non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities as those without disabilities.
This does not mean a child with special needs will get preferential treatment over the other children in said activity, and the child still needs to meet the basic requirements of the program or activity in order to participate.
A child with special needs gets a better education than those who receive a general education.
A myth once again. FAPE mandates that are children, regardless of disability, receive the same quality of education.
All teachings, materials, and assistance must be provided to every child who needs them.
The school system is required to comply with the procedural requirements outlined in IDEA and must make sure their special education program is able to accommodate a child with special needs in such a manner as they can reach their educational goals through assistance.
The school system will provide transportation to and from school.
Another truth. FAPE has rules regarding transportation and mandates that all children have access to a bus or other vehicle that is able to accommodate their specific disabilities or limitations.
If a child is to receive a free appropriate public education, they must have a way to attend school.
LRE and IEP
By now, you’ve probably learned to speak the special education language of acronyms, so we’ll touch just briefly on what these two mean.
A Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is one in which a child with special needs learns best, and differs from child to child.
A child with severely limiting disabilities will probably fare better in a self-contained classroom, an environment that includes a smaller group of children and a quieter environment for learning.
Children who are able to function better but have a learning disability that can be managed with assistance might do best in a classroom that participates in partial inclusion, which means they will spend part of the school day with their special education teacher and part of the day with their peer group participating in normal activities.
The best LRE is one that your child can flourish in.
IEP stands for Individual Education Plan and is required before a child with special needs can begin to receive a school’s special education services.
A meeting will take place in which you, school officials, specialists, and the special education teacher assess your child’s limitations and determine a treatment plan designed to help them reach educational goals through assistance.
Once you have agreed to the terms of the IEP and signed an agreement to participate, you will be given access to your child’s milestones and achievements.
You will also receive notifications if they are having a difficult time fulfilling the goals of the IEP, which is reviewed once a year to ensure your child’s condition hasn’t changed or to adjust goals as necessary.
Special Education Resource recognizes that all children learn in different ways, which is why we offer custom lesson plans tailored to fit your child’s individual needs.
Whether you want a one-time session to help with homework or on-going supplemental learning, we have the resources you need to help your child succeed. Parenting a child with special needs doesn’t have to be frustrating – we’re here to help.
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