Special Education: Myth and Fact

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Special education and associated services are often misunderstood by parents and other community members.  It is not unusual for educators who are not part of the special education system to have limited knowledge about how special education provides evaluations and services to students who qualify.


One common misconception is that some students can’t receive certain special education services from a public school because the school is small and unable to provide such things as speech or occupational therapy. In reality, all special education programs are subsidized by the federal government. If either a school’s diagnostician or an outside evaluator determines that a child qualifies for a special education service, then the school district, regardless of its size or financial condition, is obligated to and MUST provide that service. This is at the heart of PL 94-142 (Public Law 94-142), the federal legislation that was developed in to find the “least restrictive environment” for students with special needs. If the school cannot provide the service, it must contract to have that service provided by a licensed individual or an outside agency. This can mean bringing in a specialist at great cost, or providing transportation (with the parents’ consent) to a neighboring community that can provide that service.

Another misconception is that once an IEP (Individualized Educational Program, a legal document) is signed by all parties, it cannot be changed until the next annual IEP meeting. In fact, parents can request an IEP meeting at any time, and it must be held within 30 days of their request. If changes are agreed upon, an amendment is added to the IEP.

It is often believed that the school has the final decision as to whether a child is eligible to receive special education services. Actually, parents have the right to disagree with the school’s eligibility assessment and can ask for an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) at the school’s expense. If there is a disagreement after the IEE between the school and the parents, the parents then have the right to a due process hearing where an impartial hearing officer will make the determination as to eligibility. School districts spend time and money to provide responses to requirements of the law. One of the great challenges for anyone entering the special education field is to develop skills for working with stakeholders on behalf of a child, to find the best solutions to complex problems for everyone concerned. The key is to avoid conflict, achieve consensus, and provide optimum learning environments for children in our care.


Are special education services restricted to special education classrooms?  A number of parents of special education students were special education students themselves when they went to school. It is possible that their programs consisted mainly of going to special education classrooms for instruction in the various subject areas. Today, this is not the case. Least restrictive environment means that disabled children should be educated in the regular classroom along with the general population of students as much as possible. To do less is to violate special education law.

It is often believed that special education is extremely costly and is a constant drain on the regular budgets of most schools. This is not always the case. While sports programs, art, band, and other programs for the general population are totally funded by the regular school budget, the special education program is largely subsidized by the federal government. It is true that taxpayers are still paying for these services through the federal taxes that they pay, but a very small amount of the money for special education is actually coming out of a school district’s regular budget. This does not negate the fact that there are sometimes large costs involved, they are simply borne by federal funds. If your school has noticed that children are needing a specific machine or technology to comply with IEP documents, a grant may be written to purchase it, as it will no doubt be needed again. To start your grant search, you may use the Achievement Products® Free Grant Database.

Over the years, as medical science has evolved, there have been many children who survive birth defects that would have prematurely ended their lives. These children exhibit very complex medical situations that are challenges to communities, but people have risen to the challenge and invented ways to keep these children in classrooms when possible.  We’ve employed new technologies, advances in prosthetics, and assistive machinery to keep children in public classrooms all over the nation. This has meant an improved quality of life for thousands of children in our care.

Providing appropriate special education services for all of the students who qualify is a complex and expensive task. There is little wonder that some misconceptions surrounding special education law have lingered over the years as we have changed our responses to new challenges.


Grant Name:  LEGO Children’s Fund Grants

Funded By:  LEGO Children’s Fund

Description:  The LEGO Children’s Fund will provide quarterly grants for programs, either in part or in total, with a special interest paid to collaborative efforts and in providing matching funds to leverage new dollars into the receiving organization. We will give priority consideration to programs that both meet our goals and are supported in volunteer time and effort by our employees.

Program Areas:  After-School, At-Risk/Character, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education, Technology

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  Quarterly, October 15, 2013, January 15, 2014, April 15, 2014, July 14, 2014

Average Amount:  $500.00 – $5,000.00

Email:  legochildrensfund@lego.com

Website:  http://www.legochildrensfund.org/Guidelines.html

Availability:  All States

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