PLACEMENT: APPROPRIATE VS. IDEAL
Given the rights your child has to educational services, you must keep in mind that IDEIA establishes the minimum requirements schools must provide. For states to receive federal funds, they must meet the eligibility funding criteria of IDEIA. States may exceed the requirements and provide more services. They cannot, however, provide fewer services or have state regulations or practices that contradict the guidelines of IDEIA.
The federal regulations do not require states to provide an “ideal” educational program or a program the parents may feel is “best.” The state must provide an appropriate educational program, one that meets the needs of the individual student.
Parents need to be aware of the educational rights and the placement options available. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” model for the education of children with disabilities. Programs that are called “autism classrooms” or “autism programs” may not provide the services and curricula that are right for your child. Therefore, it is possible that a child with autism may not receive an appropriate education in an “autism class.” The range of available placement options allows for the creation of unique educational placements for each child.
Placement options range from total inclusive settings where children with autism receive their education alongside non-disabled peers to private placement in residential programs for children with disabilities. Within that range, a wide variety of plans can be created to meet the unique needs of each student. A parent may wish to look at placement options as they currently exist for other students. By viewing current special education programs and inclusive classrooms, you’ll get an idea of how other INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLANS (IEPS) have been put into practice.
Determining the most appropriate placement for your child is a two-step process:
Determine your child’s level of functioning and associated needs by requesting an evaluation or re-evaluation through the school or independent professional(s). This evaluation should include specific recommendations for supports, educational services and levels of treatments.
In collaboration with your child’s prospective teacher(s), service providers and school administrator; develop a well-defined and thorough IEP. Discuss the options for placement that meet the needs of your child. How does the school currently provide services for children with disabilities? Are there programs currently in place that can be modified to meet your child’s needs? Using this information, you and the school together can determine your child’s most appropriate placement.