Know Your Rights: How IDEA Can Help You Help Your Child
If a bear cub wanders into your campsite, you know to be extra cautious—because you know somewhere in the
underbrush there’s a mama bear ready to protect her young. As a parent, your instinct is to protect your child.
When it comes to making sure your child is being afforded every opportunity to succeed in school, it’s best not to
come bounding out of the underbrush!
A critical first step is to gather information about your child’s progress and understand your rights under the law.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides very specific procedural safeguards, or rights, to
help parents advocate for their child's educational well-being. So settle down for a few minutes under the
protective umbrella of IDEA, think about your bear cub rooting through picnic baskets filled with educational
content and skill-building activities, and learn your rights under the IDEA.
Under IDEA, you have the right to:
• Examine all of your child’s records;
• Participate in all meetings concerning your child;
• Agree or disagree with placement decisions;
• Request independent evaluations at public expense;
• Request a hearing to present your concerns about your child's
• Be provided written notice of decisions made by the school district.
You are the "guardian" of your child's future, and no one knows your child as well as you do. Together with school
personnel, it’s your shared responsibility to make sure that your child learns the skills needed to succeed in
school and beyond. Reach out to people at your child’s school and be a willing and active partner in developing
and implementing a plan that ensures your child’s academic growth and sets them on a path to becoming a fully
engaged and contributing member of society.
Even though you may not have formal background or training in education or another related profession, you are a
key decision-maker in your child’s education and you MUST be knowledgeable about your child's disability,
strengths, weaknesses and needs. Make sure that you understand the evaluation and eligibility process that can
lead to the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), how to measure your child's progress, and
what is meant by scientific research-based methodologies. You are a significant member of your child's IEP team
and unless you submit written consent for the school to make decisions without your input (which you should
NEVER do!), the school must include you as an equal partner and take into account any questions and concerns
you have about your child's education. The school must also provide you with an opportunity to detail the goals,
instructional methodologies and techniques that are included on your child’s IEP.
The call to parents is this: embrace your responsibility and become an invaluable partner with your child’s school
to ensure that your child receives an effective, meaningful and appropriate education.
Now that you know your rights, here are some helpful strategies to help you ‘charge the campsite’:
1. Develop (and keep up-to-date) an ‘educational binder’ for your child, including all test data, report cards,
progress notes, IEPs, fact sheets about your child's disability and work samples. Keep these materials on hand
and share openly with teachers and others so red tape can be avoided and quick and effective decisions can be
2. Educate yourself about your child's disability and how it affects your child in the classroom, on the playground,
and with friends.
3. Join a parent organization where you can seek information, ask questions and learn from other parents'
4. Read, read, read! Keep yourself up-to-date on research findings concerning your child's specific areas of
struggle, educational strategies and new types of interventions. Subscribe to NCLD's monthly online newsletters
to get updates on the latest research and resources!
5. Know your state's special education regulations. Ask your school district for copies of these regulations (how
the law is intended to be implemented) or download them from the Internet. (Search for a link to your state’s
education department on NCLD's Resource Locator) If you need help understanding your rights, look for local
and state chapters of organizations like the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) and International Dyslexia
Association (IDA) as well as Parent Training and Information Centers, called PTIs, on the Resource Locator as
6. Develop a strong partnership with your child's school that demonstrates a level of collaboration with each
individual member of your child's team and respect for their expertise.
7. Be respectful of the school's time and resources. Be concise during phone calls and meetings, keeping your
emotions in check and looking to solutions rather than blame when discussing your child.
8. Take responsibility for your child's education and utilize your rights. Take an active role in the development of
your child's IEP, follow your child's progress throughout the school year and hold yourself and the school
accountable for ensuring meaningful and sufficient progress is made each year. This includes developing the
skills he or she needs to be independent beyond the school years and to enjoy lifelong success.
9. Bring in others to help you. Invite people you trust and respect to help brainstorm solutions with you, and feel
free to invite them to join in conversations with school personnel.
10. Stand up, speak out and be counted! Write letters, call your legislators and, if you believe your role as a parent
is being denied in your child's school, take action! You can join NCLD's Legislative Action Center to keep up-to-
date on federal legislative initiatives.
For more in-depth information on how IDEA affects you and your child, be sure to view specific chapters or
download NCLD's IDEA Parent Guide.
Very helpful links