From School Psychologist to Adoptive Mama: A Series Part One (An Introduction to Special Education Law)

October 12, 2016 504 Plan, Amy A., early intervention, Education, IEP, pre-school, private school, public school, September 2016 Feature - Back to School 0 Comments

For as long as I can remember, I dreamt about the different careers I might have someday. For a long time, I wanted to be an artist. I loved to color, create, paint, and design, and I thought spending my life doing just that would be a dream come true. Then, as I fell in love with education, I thought being a teacher would be the perfect job. Throughout middle school, I considered becoming a chiropractor, a lawyer, or an architect. In high school, I fell in love with psychology and was fascinated by its theories. I had a thirst to understand people – myself included – and learn why we do what we do.


You can imagine my excitement when I discovered the classes I would take to pursue a major in psychology at Hanover College. Personality Theory, Behavior Disorders, Childhood & Adolescence, Counseling & Psychotherapy, Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, and Sensation & Perception all captivated me. I read my psych books cover-to-cover, consuming as much information as I could to better understand human nature, cognition, development, and behavior.

During summer breaks I worked with young children through an outpatient treatment facility. Then, the summer before my senior year, I interned at an inpatient mental health facility working with children and adolescence who were in crisis and experiencing various mental and/or behavioral health issues. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories and read their charts, knowing the struggles, neglect, abuse, and/or psychological issues they faced.

Because the facility provided services on a short-term basis, I was left wondering what happened when the children went home. Suddenly, it hit me. When the children left, they had to return to school. How could they function at school, and who would help them there?

God led me to the field of School Psychology, and I quickly fell in love with this specialty. After finishing graduate school, I began working for a large school district in Indianapolis. Much of my work fell into four main areas of practice: Special Education Evaluations, Positive Behavior Supports, Interventions, and Consultation. In my last post about Video Self-Modeling, I shared one type of intervention I have used in the schools to help children.

When we decided the follow the Lord and adopt two sons from China, I had no idea how my role as a school psychologist and an adoptive momma would intertwine. Adopting through the Special Needs program quickly helped me see how I could use my perspective as a school psychologist to help my own children, as well as other families who are bringing home little ones with special needs. After one of my favorite China mamas came home with her new daughter, I was so excited to join her team to ensure that her daughter’s needs were addressed in the schools.

Whether you are waiting to be matched, bring your child home, or in the thick of navigating the special education field, I hope the following information is helpful to you. Let’s start by breaking down a few key terms:

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA): This act was originally passed by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like their typically developing peers children. IDEA is a federal law that has two goals: protecting the rights of children with disabilities and giving parents a voice in their child’s education.

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): IDEA states that a child who has a disability and meets eligibility requirements for special education services will receive a free and appropriate education.



Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): This is the setting where a student with a disability will receive an appropriate education alongside nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate. More restrictive settings can be utilized when a child cannot achieve success in a lesser-restricted environment.

Individualized Education Program (IEP): This is a written document that is created, reviewed, and revised by the CCC (see below) that describes how the student will access the general education curriculum, as well as the special education and related services (if any) to be provided.

Case Conference Committee (CCC): A group of people – comprised of school personnel and the student’s parent(s) – that is responsible for determining the student’s eligibility for special education and related services, as well as the group responsible for developing and reviewing the IEP (see above).

Student with a Disability: A student who has been evaluated for special education services and is found eligible for such services and related services (if appropriate) by the CCC. These students are entitled to FAPE.

Disability: Under federal law, the following is the list of disabilities that students can be found eligible for special education services. These are larger umbrella terms for a host of medical special needs.

• Autism
• Deaf-blindness
• Deafness
• Emotional Disturbance
• Hearing Impairment
• Intellectual Disability
• Multiple Disabilities
• Orthopedic Impairment
• Other Health Impairment
• Specific Learning Disability
• Speech or Language Impairment
• Traumatic Brain Injury
• Visual Impairment

Special Education Evaluation: The purpose of a special education evaluation is to determine whether or not a student has a disability as described in federal and state law. Additionally, to be found eligible, a student’s disability must adversely affect the child’s educational performance. For example, a child may have a medical diagnosis of ADHD. The parents may request a special education evaluation to determine if their child has a disability, in this case, under the disability area called Other Health Impairment. If the criteria for OHI is found, and the effects of the child’s ADHD adversely affect the his/her ability to learn, then he/she may be found eligible for special education. However, if a child has ADHD but the condition does not negatively impact the child’s educational performance, eligibility will not take place.

Section 504: This civil rights law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and ensures that students have equal access to an education. A document called a 504 Plan can be written to provide accommodations and modifications at school. For example, diabetes may not adversely affect a child’s educational performance; however, a 504 Plan can provide accommodations and modifications to help that student throughout the day.


State Laws and Procedural Safeguards:

Because every state has its own interpretation of IDEA (federal law), it is essential for parents to know their state regulations, as well as their rights. States are allowed to go beyond what IDEA requires (and oftentimes do) because the law leaves many decisions to state and local discretion, but they are not permitted to have policies or procedures that are inconsistent with IDEA’s provisions. Below is a table, with a link to each state’s special education law, as well as procedural safeguards for each. If you find a better link than I have recorded here, please let us know. While not every state makes this information as easy to find as others, some states do an incredible job presenting this important material in an understandable way.


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Law


Special Education Rights


Mastering the Maze


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Handbook


Procedural Safeguards

Chapter 7 – Article 4


Procedural Safeguards

9.00 Due Process


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Reference


Procedural Safeguards



Procedural Safeguards



Procedural Safeguards

Title 14

Additional Title 14 Links


Procedural Safeguards

Annual State Application


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Rules


Procedural Safeguards

Chapter 60 Guidelines


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Manual


Procedural Safeguards

Educational Rights & Responsibilities


Procedural Safeguards

Article 7


Procedural Safeguards

Chapter 41


Parent Rights

Special Services Process Handbook


Procedural Safeguards

Administrative Regulations


Special Education Process & Procedural Safeguards


Procedural Safeguards

Chapter 101


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Rights


Procedural Safeguards

Education Laws & Regulations


Procedural Safeguards

Rules for Special Education


Part B of Procedural Safeguards

Minnesota Administrative Rules

Chapter 125A


Procedural Safeguards

Policies & Procedures


Procedural Safeguards

State Plan for Special Education


Procedural Safeguards

Annual State Application


Procedural Safeguards

Rule 51


Procedural Safeguards

General Website (unable to find law)

New Hampshire

Procedural Safeguards

Rules for the Education of Children with Disabilities

New Jersey

Parental Rights

Special Education

New Mexico

Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Rule

New York

Procedural Safeguards

Part 200

North Carolina

Procedural Safeguards

Article 9

North Dakota

Procedural Safeguards

State Guidelines


Procedural Safeguards

Operating Standards


Parent Rights



Procedural Safeguards

Administrative Rules for Special Edu


Procedural Safeguards

Parent Guide

Chapter 14

Rhode Island

Procedural Safeguards


South Carolina

Parent Guide

State Regulations

Process Guide

South Dakota

Parent Rights & Procedural Safeguards

Article 24:05


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Framework


Procedural Safeguards

Rules & Regulations


Procedural Safeguards

Special Education Rules


Procedural Safeguards

Series 2360


Family’s Special Education Rights

Regulations Governing Special Education Programs


Procedural Safeguards

Rules for the Provision of Special Education

West Virginia

Procedural Safeguards

Policy 2419


Procedural Safeguards

State Policies & Procedures


Procedural Safeguards

Chapter 7


Knowing your rights as a parent and the rights your child has under both state and federal law will help you better navigate special education services should your child require them. Start by reading the procedural safeguards, and if you want more detailed information, click the links regarding each state’s laws.

When you signed your name on your adoption agency’s application, you began a journey to fight for your little one across the ocean. With each milestone met in the process, you became that much closer to your child. Once your child is home, you might visit many specialists trying to obtain the best care for your new son or daughter.

To best advocate for your child’s needs, make sure you understand your rights, your child’s rights, and both state and federal laws. You know your child better than anyone, so work hand-in-hand with your child’s team at school – the school psychologist, administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, and therapists.

By knowing your rights and working together, your child can thrive at school and home.

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