Welcome to the inaugural blog post of the Law Office of Steven Alizio, PLLC! We hope you’ll continue to follow us for updates on special education law and strategies to ensure each child’s individual needs are met.
Many may remember the Houston Chronicle breaking the story about the Texas enrollment target in 2016. In 2004, Texas set a special education enrollment target at 8.5 percent—they didn’t want more than 8.5 percent of Texas students to be enrolled in special education. The problem? Way more than 8.5 percent of students needed special education services! It’s estimated that, under this cap, at least 150,000 children were kept out of special education programs. To compare, about 19 percent of students in New York City schools receive special education services—and this percentage doesn’t even include the many students with special needs that haven’t been classified.
Although the federal Department of Education did a huge investigation, and the Texas schools are recovering, the underlying problem still looms. Too often, schools focus on what they have available for children with disabilities, rather than what the children need.
Before special education became common in the United States, many children with disabilities were either barred from receiving an education or were forced to adapt to whatever education was available. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) changed that. Special education means meeting the needs of the child—not about forcing a child to try to succeed with whatever is available.
The IDEA is about meeting a child’s “unique needs.” Corresponding federal regulations explain that, “Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability,” and that “Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction…[t]o address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability….”
Parents know that it’s hard to fit a child into a box—especially when a child has as many unique and wonderful qualities as our children with disabilities do. When pursuing a free and appropriate education for children with disabilities, it’s important to remember that children deserve to have their unique needs met—they don’t have to accept whatever’s available, or whatever the state wishes the student needed.