Posts tagged with "child with a disability"

What Services Are Required for School-Aged Children with Autism in Connecticut?

Children with autism are eligible for special education and related services in Connecticut.  State and federal law does not require local school districts to provide particular services for children with autism.  These laws do require school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a free and appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs.

Specific services for autistic children depend on his or her disability and individualized educational program.  This program is established by the child’s planning and placement team.  A planning and placement team is a group consisting of the child’s parents, teachers, and educational specialist that evaluate the child’s services annually.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

What is Special Education, and Is My Child Eligible For Such Services?

The State Board of Education believes each student is unique and needs an educational environment that provides for, and accommodates, his or her strengths and areas of needed improvement. The Board also believes that a unified and coordinated continuum of educational opportunities and supports serves and benefits all students. – Excerpted from the State Board of Education’s “Position Statement on the Education of Students with Disabilities”

Every parent who has the best interests of their child at heart would most likely agree with the above statement. Making sure your child receives the best K-12 education they can is certainly the goal. However, this may appear less attainable to parents who are uncertain about the future of their disabled child, or who don’t even realize that their child has special needs.

Under Connecticut law, which mirrors federal statutes, “special education” is specifically designed instruction tailored to meet the individualized needs of a child identified as having a disability.[1] “A child who is eligible for special education services is entitled by federal law to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE)… [which] ensures that all students with disabilities receive an appropriate public education at no cost to the family.”[2] FAPE is an “unqualified right” that a school district cannot thwart or undermine due to the accompanying expenses.

However, determining whether your child is eligible may seem intimidating, but the process is more straightforward than you would expect. As a baseline, your child must be between ages 3 and 21, and “Connecticut school districts are obligated to provide special education and related services to children five years of age or older until the earlier of either high school graduation or the end of the school year in which your child turns twenty-one years of age.”[3] Related services include “transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services… as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education” (except for surgically implanted medical devices).[4]

Next, you must establish that your child has one or more of the enumerated classes of disabilities, as found directly in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:[5]

  • Autism
  • Hearing impairments (including deafness)
  • Mental retardation
  • Orthopedic impairments
  • Serious emotional disturbance
  • Specific  learning disabilities
  • Speech or language impairments
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairments (including blindness)
  • Other health impairments – this includes “limited strength, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, a heart condition, hemophilia, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette Syndrome”[6]

If your child is of the proper age and has one of these disabilities, you must next determine whether or not his or her educational performance is adversely affected. If the answer is yes, “a special education program must be developed to meet their unique educational needs.”[7] This is known as an Individual Education Program, or IEP, which will be the subject of an upcoming post.

If you are a parent with a child that has a disability, it is important that you meet with school officials to create an IEP that maximizes your child’s educational opportunities. Should you have any questions about special education or education law in general, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76a(4).

[2] “A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in Connecticut,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education. 2007. Accessed October 5, 2012: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/Parents_Guide_SE.pdf

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.8-9.

[4] Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, § 602(26).

[5] Id. at § 602(3)(A)(i).

[6] See Footnote 2.

[7] See Footnote 3.

Special Education and COVID-19: Impact on your Child’s Section 504 Plan or IEP

In March of 2020, many Governors across the country closed their schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) published guidance for local school agencies on how to appropriately handle special education and services to children with disabilities during the ongoing public health crisis. The DOE has emphasized that school districts’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) school districts should not prevent distance instruction.  Accordingly, special education services should continue during the period of remote learning from home as much as feasible.

During school closures due to the virus, if local education agencies (“LEAs”) continue to provide educational opportunities to general student populations, children with disabilities are entitled to receive the same educational opportunities that are being afforded to general student populations.  Specifically, children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”), pursuant to Section 504 and the ADA.   LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan.  In the event of school closures, an IEP Team or PPT may, but is not required to, consider remote or distance learning plans in your child’s IEP, as long as the instruction is meaningful.

During the COVID-19 national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner that are typically provided to students.  While it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some school districts, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or sign language educational services, some disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online.  For example, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and speech or language services by way of video conferencing may all be successfully instituted remotely for students with disabilities.  Teachers providing special education plans may have to create more specific daily or weekly plans for a special needs child who is now at home for the rest of the school year.

Additionally, the DOE guidance includes IDEA timelines for state complaints, IEPs, reevaluations, and due process hearings and encourages school teams and parents to work collaboratively and creatively to meet IEP timeline requirements. If a child has been found eligible to receive special education and related services under the IDEA, the IEP Team must meet and develop an initial IEP within 30 days of that determination and IEPs must be reviewed on an annual basis.  However, due to COVID-19, parents and school districts may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including video conferences or telephonic conference calls.  Of note, due to the pandemic, when making changes to a child’s IEP, the parent of a child with a disability and the school district may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making changes and can develop a written amendment or modification to the child’s IEP.

A reevaluation of a child with a disability must occur at least every three years, unless both the parents and school district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. However, a reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing evaluation data when appropriate, without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined that additional assessments are needed.

In regard to state special education complaints, absent agreement by the parties, a state may be able to extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution, if exceptional circumstances exist.  The DOE has now stated that exceptional circumstances include a large number of state workers unavailable or absent from work for an extended period of time due to the pandemic.  In regard to due process hearings, the parties can come to a mutual agreement to extend the 30-day resolution deadline due to COVID-19.  Additionally, a due process hearing officer may grant a specific extension of time at the request of either party to the hearing.

Moreover, when a child with a disability is classified as needing homebound instruction because of a medical problem, as ordered by a physician, and is home for an extended period of time, generally more than ten (10) consecutive school days, an individualized education program (IEP) meeting could be necessary to change the child’s placement and the contents of the child’s IEP.  If a child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and has to be absent from school for an extended period of time while school is open, parents or guardians may be able to make arrangements with the LEA to provide homebound instruction special education and related services.

If you have any questions about special education and related services during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Attorney Joseph Maya at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@mayalaw.com for a complimentary consultation regarding your matter.