Because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, parents of special needs children have several options available to them when they are in a dispute or disagreement with a local school district regarding the special education services their child is receiving.

One of those options is a Special Education Due Process Hearing.

A Due Process Hearing is intended to be an impartial procedure modeled after a civil court hearing, where both parties have the opportunity to have an attorney represent them or represent themselves as they state their case before an Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO).

These hearing are not designed or intended to resolve criminal issues, but instead will typically address complaints that parents might have about the way their children’s needs are being met by the school system.

A special education due process hearing will also be used to address a disagreement where the school system is disputing whether or not a child actually has a learning disability, or where they disagree with the medical claims of the child’s parents.

The Steps

Once the allegations are made and the necessity for a hearing has already been established, there are seven steps involved with the actual hearing.

1. Plaintiff’s Opening Statement and Allegations

The plaintiff is typically the parents who are bringing allegations against their child’s school, although in some cases the school system will act as the plaintiff.

The first step of such a hearing will be for that party to present their allegations in the form of an opening statement, upon which they will also assume the burden of proof.

2. Opportunity For Both Parties To tate Their Cases

After the plaintiff’s opening statements, both parties will be afforded the opportunity to state their cases and present evidence that must be deemed adequate and admissible and must be accompanied by supporting documentation. Typically, these documents will be comprised of the student’s medical records or confidential educational files and information.

3. Briefs

As a follow-up to opening statements, both parties will be afforded the opportunity to provide a brief to the Impartial Hearing Officer. These briefs will usually include relevant background information that would clarify or expound upon information in the opening statements.

4. Witnesses

Both parties will have the opportunity to present witnesses, which are often made up of a family members, teachers or doctors who might have familiarity with the child’s medical history. Witnesses can be subpoenaed by way of affidavit or deposition.

5. Cross Examination

Both parties are then given the chance to cross-examine any of the witnesses that have given testimony.

6. Decision from the IHO

Once each party has made their case, the Impartial Hearing Officer makes a decision based on existing laws and precedents, which is then handed down to both sides and formally marks the ends of the special education hearing process.

7. Appeal

Both parties have the option to appeal the ruling if they are able to present reasonable evidence that proves the initial ruling was incorrect or made by way of incomplete information. Usually this will only be successful if additional evidence surfaces that can significantly affect the outcome of the case.

inclusive education

Inclusive education is a relatively controversial topic for many parents and educators. The idea behind inclusive education is that students with special needs will be placed in the same classroom environment as other students their age who do not have special needs.

Within inclusive education, there are two main branches of thinking: mainstreaming and full inclusion. Mainstreaming is a process that allows children with special needs to enter certain standard classrooms after they show the ability to keep up with the rest of their peers.

Full inclusion puts students with special needs in standard classroom environments without testing or demonstration of skills. Individuals that support full inclusion believe that all children belong in the same classroom environment no matter what.

Why Is Inclusion Important?

While feelings about inclusive education are still somewhat mixed, many studies show that children with special needs thrive in standard classroom environments for a variety of different reasons.

On an interpersonal level, inclusive education allows children to develop friendships with their peers and feel less social tension about their disabilities. Some people believe that children who are placed in standard classroom environments generally have higher self-esteem than children who are isolated to different classrooms simply because they have special needs.

Other studies show that children with special needs actually learn more in regular classroom environments, provided they get the help and support they need in and out of the classroom when it comes to academic subjects. Groups that oppose inclusive education often maintain the position that children without special need will be forced to learn at a slower pace, but in practice, this is easily avoided by qualified teachers.

Children Want to Be Included

The need to feel included or to belong to a group is strong in most children. Children that are relegated to special classes or schools because they have special needs may develop self-esteem and image issues that could stay with them the rest of their life, making it difficult for them to feel like they belong as adults.

Unfortunately, that can lead to lifelong interpersonal problems, and problems related to employment and daily life.

Children Have the Right to Be Included

According to the Children with Disabilities Act, children with special needs have the right to be educated with nondisabled children their own age. The Children with Disabilities Act also states that children should have access to the same general curriculum taught to students without disabilities.

Simply put, children have the right to a quality education, no matter what special needs they may have. No single school has the right to deny education to children and families who want the best for their child simply because he or she has a disability.

Focus on Your Child’s Needs

The idea of inclusive education has actually garnered more attention recently because of NBC’s popular television show, Parenthood. On the show, a main character named Max, has autism, and he and his parents make the decision that he will attend a mainstream school.

Many parents are making similar decisions for their children, and as the idea of inclusive education spreads, it’s likely to become more and more common, to the benefit of many children with special needs.


Inclusive education is becoming more and more common all over the world.

playground kids

Over 50% of parents put their young children in a day care during working hours. Some parents need their children to be watched while they are at work while others are looking to socialize their kids. Either way, there are a few things to consider when you are choosing a daycare center for your child –especially your special needs child.

  • Licensing In most states you are only allowed to watch 3 children, if not your own, without being licensed by the state. Laws may vary state to state, so check out what yours may require if you’re worried about a specific institutions regulations.

    Having a license ensures the facilities your child will be in are safe and clean. They follow laws and regulations put into place by your specific state and in some cases the government.

    Licensing also assures you that the staff are well-educated caretakers. They have to go through a specific interviewing process and probation period to make sure they are the right people to be working with children.

  • Organization Reviews The internet is full of a wealth of information on business today, including the child care facility you may want to place your child in. Go online and research what other parents and families have said about about the institution.

    This will give you a great idea of the overall quality of care children are receiving and may ultimately help you make the decision to send your child to this place –or not.

  • Personal Character Personal character is quite important when working with special needs children. You want to find child care providers that are patient, loving and nurturing. This will ensure your child is taken care of properly.

    Most child care centers allow you to stick around for a day or two with your child to watch them during lunch, snack and recess times. You can usually also participate in art activities. Ask your local child care center if you can bring your child for a day to see if the center is the right fit for the both of you.

  • Background Checks Most licensed facilities require their staff to go through a thorough background check. Although, this may vary state to state. Ask your local center if their staff has been checked locally, statewide and nationwide.

    If you are uncomfortable with the idea that staff have not been required to have a background check done, you can make the choice to take your child somewhere else.

adaptive playground

  • Educated Staff

    One of the most important things to pay attention to when choosing a childcare center for your child is the particular staff’s education. Not all workers are required to have degrees in education. Some young teachers may be working toward them.

    If the staff at the institution you are looking at are not educated in child development, you should at least make certain they are willing to understand your child’s issue and needs and work with them.

    New policies may need to be put in place for your child, so you need to find people that will work with you on that count.

  • Government Funding

    Unfortunately, special needs education is the most underfunded education system in the United States. Finding a daycare center that has funding for the government may be quite difficult, but could weigh heavily in your favor.

    Government funded centers have better resources for your special needs children such as: specifically designated programs, one on one time and plenty of resources for staff to learn how to give the best possible care to your children.

    The adaptive playground pictured above was funded by the government. It allows children in wheelchairs to play with classmates on the same play structure.

Remember to keep licensing, organization reviews and personal character in mind when choosing a childcare center for your special needs child. This will ensure they are getting the best care possible and hopefully be able to make new friends, learn and grow.


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Depending on where you live, you’ll likely find one or more schools designed for children with special needs in your area. Generally, these schools are private, and charge families tuition fees for their children to attend.

In many cases, private schools for children with special needs are open to children with all types of disabilities. However, some schools choose to focus more on helping children with certain special needs to achieve their academic goals.

Skilled, Understanding Staff

One main benefit of choosing to put your child in a private school for children with special needs is that they will be surrounded by staff members that understand their needs – staff members that are skilled and understanding when it comes to helping and teaching children with disabilities.

While many public schools do have programs for children with special needs, they tend to have larger classroom environments, and they may not get the special attention that they need to learn at an optimal level. With a private school that’s less likely to happen because funding isn’t an issue since each family pays an annual tuition.

Tailored Education Plans

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Unlike public schools that often try to teach many children with different special needs in the same classroom, private schools designed specifically for children with special needs tend to develop education plans for each student. For many students, this allows them to learn in a way that is better suited to their particular needs.

For example, a child with severe dyslexia will require a different education plan than a child with mild dyslexia in many cases. In a private school environment, the differences between the ways these two children learn will not be glossed over.

Will My Child Learn as Much?

In general, children who attend private schools for students with special needs learn just as much or more than children who attend regular public schools. This is usually because of the aforementioned tailored education plans and more individual attention.

In some cases, classes may move slower than they would at a regular public school. However, this is only so that students that require a slower pace can fully grasp and retain the material being taught to them.

How Much Does Private School Cost?

Private school, whether it’s for children with special needs or not, can be expensive. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to give a range as to how much private school will cost your family on a yearly basis since a variety of factors like where you live, how well trained the staff is and what the school’s educational goals are with each student will affect the price of tuition.

However, private schools for children with special needs will often work with parents to come up with a flexible payment plan, allowing them to pay tuition in installments instead of on a quarter, semester or annual schedule. Some private schools even have fee waivers for parents whose children have special needs but cannot afford the full tuition.


Having a child with a disability is something few parents are really prepared for. However, it doesn’t have to be an everyday struggle to care for your child and get them the best care possible.

In fact, there are a variety of ways parents can get support. In the state of California, there are multiple avenues on the public and government funded level. Private resources can also be very helpful. You’ll need to do a little digging to find the information and all of the programs that could help, but it is well worth the effort.

Paid Family Leave

Taking care of a child with disabilities can be difficult for many parents, and in some cases, paying somebody to take care of their child while they’re working simply isn’t an option for financial reasons. In the state of California, parents of children with disabilities are allotted a certain amount of paid time off through the paid family leave program.

California provides parents up to six weeks of paid family leave each year. While parents having to take care of their children during tough times is the most common reason parents use paid family leave, the program is also there so new parents can bond with their newborn children with disabilities in a constructive manner.

Community Care


Community care centers are located all over the state of California, and their goal is to provide around the clock non-medical residential care for children and adults with disabilities. For parents, these community care centers can be a lifesaver if they can’t afford to pay professionals familiar with their child’s disability to come to their home, which can be a very expensive proposition.

Community care centers are generally structured by level, and they range from level one to level four. Level one facilities are generally for children and adults with mild disabilities who may require less supervision. As you go up in levels, the more equipped the center is to care for children and adults with severe disabilities.


Medi-Cal is a system that was put in place years ago by the state of California to provide medical care for people with disabilities, as well as older adults and impoverished families. Medi-Cal can be a little tricky for the average person to figure out without a bit of research, but if you have a child with a known disability, it is likely that they will be covered if you don’t make enough to provide care for them.

In many cases, children with disabilities will be eligible for full benefits, meaning that their parents may not have to pay any medical bills other than day care, some of which can be reimbursed through SSDI. To learn more about Medi-Cal and get your child involved, visit their website or talk to your child’s doctor or community care representative.

Private Outreach

Not all programs designed to help children with disabilities are run by the state of California or the federal government. In fact, some of the most beneficial programs anywhere in the United States are run by private individuals, many with a background in health care or who have a child with a disability of their own.

The best way to find private groups that could help you and your family out with a range of different things is to talk with your doctor and community care representative. However, you can find a lot of information about private care groups by visiting well-known foundations that support your child’s disability.

For example, if you have a child with autism, visiting a website like Autism Speaks could be very helpful. Sites that provide information about particular disabilities can also be very helpful when it comes to finding private care groups.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 500 to 650 million people are living with significant disabilities throughout the world. That means that around 10-percent of the children in the world have a disability of some type.

Considering that 10-percent of the children in the world have one, being born with a disability isn’t that uncommon. For that reason, the rights of children with disabilities are an important topic.

If you have a child with a disability, knowing his or her rights is essential when it comes to their education and even day-to-day life. Your child may not know when they’re being discriminated against simply because they have a disability, but it’s your job as a parent to know, and protect them.

Knowing the laws can help you protect your child and make sure they live a fulfilling, rewarding life as a child so they’ll be prepared to handle adult life with strength and grace.

Fundamental Rights

As Americans, individuals with disabilities are offered all of the same general rights that other Americans are. In no way should these rights be taken away from individuals with disabilities.

  • Freedom of expression. Individuals with disabilities have the right to express themselves freely like anybody else in the United States.
  • When action is taken for a disabled child, the best interest of the child should always be at the forefront of consideration.
  • Individuals with disabilities shall enjoy the same freedoms given to adults as put forth in the Constitution.

Rights in Education

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 was designed to help protect children with disabilities from discrimination in K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions. Every child with a disability has a right to access education at a level that is appropriate for them, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 promises a free public education to all disabled students in the United States.

  • Children with physical disabilities should be properly accommodated in the classroom and given physical access to all of the same materials and classes.
  • Children with disabilities related to their health should also be properly accommodated in school situations, and not discriminated against because or kept from other classmates or social situations as long as they are not unhealthy for the disabled student or peer group.
  • Individualized education plans (IEPs) should be implemented for students with special education needs. Children with disabilities may not always be able to keep pace with the rest of the peer group and should receive specialized education if necessary. Individualized education plans are to be developed by the school in conjunction with the parent and disabled student.

Children with disabilities should be treated fairly and with respect, and given the same opportunities for education within the school system.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fighting Discrimination

If you feel like your child is the victim of discrimination in any part of their life, it’s important that you work to fight this discrimination, especially if it is occurring in your child’s school. IN some cases, school officials may not be aware of obvious or overt discrimination, and bringing it to their attention will be enough to remedy it.

However, some cases require legal assistance. As a parent, it’s your job to stand up for the rights of your child, so you need to go to bat for them. Seeking legal assistance to get your child the rights they are guaranteed and deserve may be necessary.

Is Your Child Struggling in School or With Homework? Is Your School District Providing the Right Type and Amount of Support? 


California general education teachers are some of the best trained teachers in the country. They have extensive training working with children of varying cultural backgrounds and learning abilities. Unfortunately, they typically do not have the time or in class resources to focus on every child’s unique needs.

For most students the presentation of information in the regular educational setting is appropriate however, some students inevitably require small group or individual attention in certain subjects.

Unfortunately many school districts fail to offer, or take years, wasting precious early intervention time, before offering a struggling student the appropriate support he/she needs to be successful in the classroom.

The burden ultimately falls on parents to make sure their child is receiving the appropriate educational supports and services from their school district. If your child is struggling in school there are numerous resources available to help them.

It is important for parents to know that Special education is not only for the severely disabled. It is not a bad thing and should not hold a negative connotation.

Special education is a service that allows a school district and parents to design an individual education program (IEP) designed to meet your child’s unique needs. If your child is struggling in reading or math the IEP may provide for extra help in these areas. This may include 1:1 teacher support in or outside of the classroom.

If your child is struggling in school, having a hard time with homework or falling behind his/her peers they may require extra help during school. School districts have many wonderful resources available to help students receive a benefit from their education. It is your job as parents to request these services. Below are the steps and procedures you should take if your child is struggling in the classroom.

Step One: Classroom Intervention

The first step a school district will take when a student is struggling with their education is to begin the Response to Intervention (RTI) process. 

  • If your school district has not started this process, you must request it in writing. A quick email to the principal will suffice.

Generally, the teacher and or grade level team will discuss the needs of their “low” kids and come up with in class interventions to bring these students up to grade level. This may include among other things, longer time on tests, modified homework etc.

For some students, these interventions work well. If a child is really struggling and having obvious difficulty keeping up with his/her peers the District should assess the child for special education and related services. 

Unfortunately, many children are never assessed for additional services and end up struggling each year. Additionally, because students change teachers every year it is easy for them to get lost in the mix and for the RTI process to start all over again with each grade level. 

Step Two: Request an Assessment for Special Education

If a student does not start to improve after a few months of the RTI process, parents must request in writing an assessment for special education and related services. 

  • The school district is legally responsible for providing an appropriate education designed to meet your child’s unique needs.

DO NOT wait until your school district recommends assessing… it may take years or they may never assess, even as your child continues to struggle. Too often the district’s reasoning for not recommending assessments for special education and related services assessing is once a child becomes eligible to receive services strict federal and state laws apply to protect the rights of the student and parents.

Additionally, the school district will be spending more money and resources to meet your child’s needs.

When the District agrees to assess for special education they will provide parents with an assessment plan. The assessment plan identifies what areas will be assessed and who will perform the assessment.

It is important for parents to carefully review the assessment plan to make sure all areas of suspected disability will be evaluated. Upon signing and returning the assessment plan the school district has sixty (60) days to complete their assessment and hold an individualized education program (IEP) meeting with the parents to review the assessment results.

At this meeting the school district will determine

  1. If your child has a qualifying disability to receive special education and related services
  2. By reason thereof does your child require special education and related services.

There are thirteen (13) eligibility categories for the receipt of special education and each one has multiple subcategories.

Step Three: IEP Meeting 

Once the assessment(s) are completed the school district will schedule an IEP meeting to review the results.

  • The district will send you an IEP notice which will give you the time and location of the meeting and who will be in attendance.

It is important to request in advance of the meeting a copy of all assessments the district will be reviewing at the IEP meeting. This will allow you to review the assessments beforehand and write down any questions you may have. Additionally, parents should highlight all areas of need mentioned in the assessment reports and make sure every area gets addressed at the IEP meeting.

Your child’s IEP team must include following participants: 


  1. Parents of the child,
  2. Regular education teacher (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment),
  3. Special education teacher(s) of the child,
  4. District administrator who
    1. Is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities;
    2. Is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and
    3. Is knowledgeable about the availability of resources of the public agency,
  1. A person who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results, who may also be a member of the team described above.

The IEP team may also include other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel, as appropriate and the child with the disability.

Generally, the initial IEP meeting will be facilitated by the district psychologist who performed the multidisciplinary assessment or a low level district administrator such as a program/case manager. Upon beginning the meeting and after introductions you will be given a copy of your procedural rights which you should either review at the IEP meeting or at home.

Next, the district psychologist and others will review their assessments and will go over in detail the findings and results. If your child is determined to have a qualifying condition the next step is to identify the educational needs of your child.

It is important to remember that parents are equal members of the IEP team. Parent input and concerns are invaluable to the IEP team and need to be discussed in detail. It is essential that you write down all of your concerns and list all of your child’s perceived areas of deficit. During the IEP meeting you must make sure for every area of deficit/need identified in the assessment(s) a goal is developed addressing that area of need.

Goals Drive Services

The more goals your child has in his/her IEP the more services will be required for your child to meet those goals. For example, if your child has four (4) reading comprehension goals he/she may require more than 30 minutes per week of group reading support from the resource specialist teacher.

After the IEP team has identified each area of concern and is satisfied with the goals the district will make its offer of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This is the district’s offer of special education and related services it believes are appropriate to meet your child’s unique needs. It is important to remember the district has an incentive to save costs. Therefore, it typically will start low when making its offer of special education services. You should always counter offer and request more services.

The offer of a FAPE is a complicated issue. Below is a quick breakdown of the school district’s responsibility:

  1. Free: The services must be provided at “no cost” to parents.
  2. Appropriate: the education must be designed to meet your child’s unique needs, allowing him/her to access and benefit from their education. However, it does not require the school district to maximize your child’s potential or offer the best available program. The District’s burden is low. As long as the offered program and support services allow your child to receive some benefit, the district will have met its burden.
  3. Public Education: All school districts including charter schools are responsible to provide students who qualify for special education and related services with an education from 3 up to 22 years old, in California.

Never Sign the IEP Document at the Meeting

It is the best practice to always take the IEP document home to review before signing. After careful review and if you have no additional questions you can return a signed copy to the district within a couple of days.

Invariably you will have questions after the IEP meeting which you may want to have answered before signing the IEP document.  After you have signed and returned the IEP document the District must within a reasonable time implement the services it will offer. Parents can also consent in part to the IEP. That is, you can consent to some services and reject others.

Thereafter, the District will schedule annual IEP meetings to review your child’s progress and to make its offer of FAPE for the following school year. Additionally, the District must reassess your child’s needs at least every three years.

Step Four: Independent Assessment(s)

If the school district does not qualify your child for special education and related services or if the services offered are not adequate you have the right to disagree with the district’s assessment(s) and request that the district fund, at no cost to you, an independent educational evaluation (IEE).

If you wish to request an IEE you must either make your request at the IEP meeting or in writing. The District has only two choices when it responds to your request for an IEE. It can either agree to fund the IEE or file a court action (due process request) to prove that its assessment(s) are appropriate.

If the district agrees to fund the IEE it will typically give you a list of proposed assessors to use.  However, you are not limited to this list and can use any qualified expert to assess your child’s education needs.

When the assessment is done you will request another IEP meeting to review the assessment and its results. The IEP team must consider the new information and make a renewed offer of FAPE. The district however, is not obligated to adopt the recommendations in the independent assessment.

Therefore, if you still disagree with the district’s offer of services your next option is to take some form of legal action against the district such as filing a due process request with the Office of Administrative Hearings. It is advisable to seek legal representation at this point.

IEP Checklist 

  1. Make a list of all the areas of need from your own observations and the assessments
  2. At the IEP meeting discuss every area of deficit or concern on your list
  3. Make sure there are goals addressing every area of deficit or concern (Remember goals drive services)
  4. Request more services, if appropriate
  5. Request IEEs, if appropriate
  6. Take the IEP home, review it and return a signed copy if you are satisfied.


If your child’s behaviors are affecting their progress in school it is important to seek the proper support from the school district. The school district is responsible for educating your child including, assessing and identifying each student’s unique needs.

Children learn and process information in many different ways. The one size fits all approach to education is unworkable and illegal. The district has a responsibility to offer the appropriate support to help your child succeed in school.

If your child is getting suspended or removed from their classroom because of their maladaptive behaviors you should request a special education assessment including a behavior assessment from your school district. This will allow the district to evaluate your child and if necessary develop a behavior support plan (BSP) or behavior intervention plan (BIP) to address and eliminate the problem behaviors. The behavior plan must be based on positive behavior interventions thus eliminating the negative and detrimental suspensions.

Unfortunately, without parental involvement school districts will continue to negatively treat students with behavior problems even though a child’s maladaptive behavior is not always their fault. However, if and when the student is found eligible to receive special education and related services the school district will be legally bound to follow the behavior plan. Often, a student with a behavioral issue will be found eligible for services under the Emotional Disturbance (ED) or Other Health Impairment (OHI) category.

Emotional disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:

(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.

(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Other Health Impairment means having limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that –

(i) Is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome; and

(ii) Adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Additionally, if the district doesn’t find that your child meets the requirements to receive special education and related services he/she may still be protected under other laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Unfortunately, getting your child assessed and eligible to receive special education services is only the first step. It is important to make sure the school district provides the appropriate supports to address your child’s unique needs.

Under California law, if a special education student exhibits a “serious behavior problem” such as behavior that is assaultive, self-injurious or other severe behaviors that interfere with learning, a Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA) is the mandatory form of assessment and must be conducted by a Behavior Intervention Case Manager (BICM).

That is, the FAA must be conducted by a person who is trained in behavior analysis with an emphasis on positive behavioral interventions.  The FAA requires data collection, not just anecdotal observation.

The primary difference between a FAA pursuant to state law and a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) under federal law is that the former is required when a student has a “serious behavior problem.” A serious behavior problem is defined as behavior that is assaultive, self-injurious or other severe behavior problems that are “pervasive and maladaptive for which instructional/behavioral approaches specified in student’s IEP are found to be ineffective.”

Regrettably, many school districts respond to a parent’s request for an FAA with an offer to do a Functional Behavior Assessment instead. An FBA is found in federal law and doesn’t require the assessment be provided by or supervised by a qualified behaviorist.  An FAA on the other hand requires systematic observation of the student to identify the function of the behavior engaged in by the child, its antecedents, and its consequences.

However, because an FAA must be performed by a BICM and many school districts are lacking in BICM personnel the district will offer to perform an FBA because they can send one of their school psychologists out to perform the assessment instead of having to hire a BICM.

In conclusion if your child is exhibiting behaviors that are impeding his/her learning

  1. Request a special education assessment, if your child is not currently receiving special education and related services;
  2. Request an FAA and the creation of a Behavior Intervention Plan;
  3. Request specific behavior goals be developed based on positive interventions;
  4. Request the implementation of a behavior aide, if necessary, to assist your child.


If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors you will benefit from consulting with a special education attorney.

  1. academically struggling in school,
  2. taking several hours to complete homework assignments,
  3. has behaviors that impede learning or ability to access the curriculum,
  4. has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan,
  5. Receives accommodations/modifications at school through Response to Intervention (RTI) or Student Study Team (SST).

Hiring a special education attorney to review your child’s educational files is the first step in understanding if any of their educational rights have been violated. It is important to remember that a school district has many competing interests other than providing your child with an appropriate education.

These include among other things, preserving its limited resources. Therefore, it is important to have a special education attorney review your child’s case to determine if the school district is providing your child with the appropriate placement and services he/she requires to access and benefit from their education. Unfortunately, school districts commonly fall short of their legal mandate.

A qualified special education attorney is a great resource in your effort to determine what your child’s educational rights are and the school district’s obligations under the law. Many special education attorneys offer a free initial consultation which allows you to inquire about your case and interview potential attorneys. However, these consultations are limited in scope and a full records review of your child’s educational file maybe necessary.

Often times it is worth spending a little money to hire an attorney to perform a complete records review and case assessment. This will provide you with a clear understanding of your rights, the district’s responsibilities, and any pending violations by the school district. It is not unusual for a records review to uncover several inadequacies in a school district’s offer and/or implementation of services.

Relying solely on the school district to develop and implement the appropriate program and services for your child is risky. It is important to get an explanation of your child’s educational rights with regards to the program your school district is proposing or providing. It is common for school districts to offer limited support services based on its own inadequate assessments.

One of the first steps a special education attorney will take is to review your child’s progress and assessments. If your child fails to meet their annual goals and/or continues to struggle this is clear evidence that the services being provided are not appropriate.

Additionally, a review of your child’s assessments allows a special education attorney to determine if the assessment meets the minimum legal standard. If the assessments are deficient it is recommended that parents request a publicly funded independent educational evaluation (IEE) in all areas of suspected deficit. Obtaining IEEs provides parents the chance to have experts independent of the school district assess their child. With this new information parents can legally challenge the school district’s offer of services and request it provide the services recommended by the independent experts.

The education of your child is too important to leave to the school district alone. Unfortunately, with the school district’s tightening budgets many legally required services are not being offered. It has been proven that early intervention is the best way to remedy a student’s deficit areas. However, without the support of independent experts and a special education attorney, many students will never receive a meaningful benefit from their education.

In conclusion, I would recommend every parent who has a child struggling in school have a special education attorney perform a case assessment to determine if your child is receiving the services they are legally entitled to.