Your Child’s Right to Services While in School

Navigating specialty services can be difficult with the staggering amount of laws and nuances to earning services for your child in the school system. An important first step is to know your child’s right to receive services while at school.


If you suspect your child has a learning disability or delay, this can dramatically impact their learning, social development, and education. The first step will be to get an evaluation or a referral for an evaluation. Evaluations can be done by licensed professionals either on staff with your child’s school or through a private practice that offers evaluations and consultations. Recommendations can be made by your school’s principal, special education department, and Referrals can be made by your child’s primary care physician.

Occasionally, staff and even principals are hesitant to make the necessary referrals or schedule a consultation (2). Most schools should be willing and happy to assist you with this, though if you feel you need a second opinion or you are unable to get the initial evaluation through your child’s school, connecting with a private practice can accomplish this first crucial step quickly and it is often completely covered by your insurance company to rule out any speech or occupational issues your child may have.

General school evaluations, or “Evals,” are developmental assessments. Evaluations can be done on a discipline by discipline basis as needed. For example, if you suspect your child has a speech delay, you may seek out a licensed speech-language pathologist to evaluate your child’s current speech level, identify any delays or disabilities, and provide you with possible options moving forward in their development.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Public school systems are required by law to make special services available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This act is a federal statute, initially enacted in 1975. This plays a big role in how a school district receives federal funds. Each and every state and school district must have a process set up to identify, assess, and then create an educational program for these children, from age three to twenty-two. IDEA covers not only children with learning disabilities, but also those with perceptual problems, including issues with hearing and vision, brain injuries (both closed and open), cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, orthopedic issues that may affect mobility, and certain emotional and behavioral issues or disturbances that can interfere with the process of education and social development.

This law ensures five basic rights (1):

1. A free, appropriate public education
2. An individual educational plan (IEP) based on a complete developmental assessment and approved by parents
3. Access to records or the right of parents to review the child’s educational records
4. Due process, or giving parents the right to participate in the evaluation and decision-making process
5. The least restrictive educational environment (placing the child in a learn­ing situation that is as normal and convenient as conditions allow)

Where to go from here?

The first place you should go to get more information about the services available to your child in the school system is to contact your child’s school. Many schools are happy to work with families to help your child succeed in their studies.

Some families may find that school-based services are not enough or that their child does not qualify. Families can then choose to seek out private services, such as those offered at Spark Therapies or another private practice near them.

The policies, laws, and accepted methodology listed here are subject to change over time and may vary from state to state.


This article was written by Jessica O’Hara and is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing posted here should be deemed to constitute legal or medical advice.

Sources and Additional Resources:

US Department of Education: Individuals with disabilities education act (2017)

American Academy of Pediatrics: Your right to special services.


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