We’ve often heard the colloquialism “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” which is another way of saying that those willing to speak out and voice their discontent or concerns are rarely ignored and often rewarded with the changes they desired. This colloquialism has many applications, but none as apt as for the parents of children on the autism spectrum.

With diagnoses of spectrum disorders such as autism on the rise, it is important for parents and caregivers to take an active hand from the beginning in their child’s education. Federal law mandates that children with autism-spectrum disorders be provided a “free and appropriate public education” just as other students are provided. However, school districts and their personnel often fail to ensure this, or fail to enforce accommodations put in place for autistic students through Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

Even though the law has classically seen schools and teachers as “in loco parentis,” which essentially means they are responsible to act as the authoritative role over children during the school day, parents of autistic children cannot sit back and assume school personnel have their sons and daughters’ best interests in mind at all times. School district budgets everywhere have been subject to decreases and cuts, which forces more and more teachers at these districts to wear many different “hats” throughout the day.

Continue Reading The Importance of Parental Advocacy for the Autistic Student

Legal custody allows you as a parent to make major decisions on behalf of your child. If your child has special needs, legal custody provides you the right to have a voice in your child’s special education program at school. Children identified as having a need for special education and related services are to be provided with a free and appropriate public education. The law requires that a team of individuals develop an Individualized Education Plan for your child. Parents are a part of this team. If the parents are separated but share legal custody of their child, then both parents have equal rights to contribute to the educational plan of their child.

Recently, I worked with the Pennsylvania Bar Association and helped launch a statewide campaign entitled “Have a Voice in Your Exceptional Child’s Education.” “The campaign provides basic information to parents and guardians about the special educational rights of children, information about the evaluation processes that are to be followed to identify disabilities and giftedness, and overviews of the steps schools are to follow to provide educational programs, support and services to address the evaluation findings.”

For more information on this campaign and to learn more about the special education rights of your child, please click here.

With operating budgets that have been drastically cut or reduced year after year, school districts across Pennsylvania are increasingly seeking to minimize educational support mandated under federal and state law to special-needs students. The continuing rise in childhood diagnoses from autism to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to Type 1 diabetes ensures that the educational requirements of students with special needs will remain significant in the near future.

Stark & Stark assists parents and caregivers with making sure that school districts put into place appropriate protections to provide required free and appropriate public education to students with special needs, and with making sure that protections that may already be in place (IEPs, 504s) are followed in accordance with the law. Our attorneys are familiar with not only these areas, but also with the day-to-day struggles of special-needs children, bringing a unique and personal approach that other educational law practitioners may lack.