The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for kids with disabilities. That can include kids with learning and attention issues.
FAPE is one of the most important legal rights your child has. Knowing what it covers can help you partner with your child’s school. It can also help you advocate for the services and supports your child needs.
Here’s what FAPE requires if your child qualifies for special education services.
What FAPE Requires a School to Do
- Provide special education to meet the unique needs of your child. This means specially designed instruction. For example, a child with reading issues might be taught with a multisensory reading program.
- Provide related services to help your child benefit from special education. Related services may include things like speech therapy, counseling or even transportation.
- Provide these services at no charge.
- Provide accommodations and modifications that help your child learn and participate in the general education curriculum. Some examples of accommodations include audiobooks, extra time on tests and preferential seating. See a list of common accommodations and modifications.
- Create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child. This is a written plan for your child’s special education experience at school. By law, an IEP must include things like services, progress monitoring, annual goals and more. See a visual breakdown of an IEP.
- Teach your child in the least restrictive environment (LRE). As much as possible, your child should be learning alongside students who don’t receive special education. Placement in a separate class is only allowed if it’s necessary to meet your child’s needs.
What FAPE Does Not Require a School to Do
- Provide the best services possible for your child, or services superior to those of other kids. The school isn’t required to “maximize” your child’s potential. Rather, it must simply provide your child a “basic floor of opportunity.”
- Provide a specific program or class setting that you want for your child. You’re a member of the team that creates the IEP and can give input. However, FAPE doesn’t guarantee your child a specific educational program, like Orton–Gillingham instruction. The IEP team makes the final decision.
- Guarantee your child a spot in an extracurricular activity or sport. FAPE doesn’t give your child a right to preferential treatment for clubs and sports. However, the school must give your child an equal opportunity to participate.
At times, you may disagree with the school about what specific services FAPE requires. If so, it’s important to negotiate and work with the school on a solution. You also have the right to ask for dispute resolution.
Find out what to do if the school wants to change the accommodations in your child’s IEP. And read how IDEA leaves room for states to interpret the rules of the federal law.