Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Special Education "Labels" Should Mean Little to Parents

Another parent has emailed me with a common concern. She wants the school to assign her child a different "label" (i.e., eligibility category). May parents and school folks are confused about the reason that schools use "labels". It is a common misconception that the "label" drives the services and/or the placement (i.e., the program into which the school places the child).

IDEA specifically says that a child does not have to have any type of "label" in order to receive services.

We answer this question over and over in our Wrightslaw Seminars.

Further, I cannot say it any better than Pete and Pam Wright say it in their blog:

"The law is clear that if a child has a disability, and the disability adversely affects educational performance, then the child is entitled to services under IDEA 2004 and entitled to an IEP.

The law also says that child does not even need to have a label to be eligible for those services." Wrightslaw Blog, 8-19-2010.

A school is required to use labels in order to report to the state and federal government and for it to receive its funding for students eligible under state and federal special education standards. That's all.

The Commentary also addresses this in several places: " ... each child's educational placement must be determined on a individual case-by-case basis depending on each child's unique educational needs and circumstances, rather than by the child's category of disability, and must be based on the child's IEP. FR 46586,

In all cases, placement decisions must be individually determined on the basis of each child's abilities and needs and each child's IEP, and not solely on factors such as category of disability, severity of disability, availability of special education and related services, configuration of the service delivery system, availability of space, or administrative convenience. FR 46588

Services must meet the child's needs and cannot be determined by the child's eligibility category. FR 46655

The Act does not require children to be identified with a particular disability category for purposes of the delivery of special education and related services. In other words, while the Act requires the the Department collect aggregate data on children's disabilities, it does not require that particular children be labeled with particular disabilities for purposes of service deliver, since a child's entitlement under the Act is to FAPE and not to a particular disability label. FR 46737

The U.S. Department of Education and IDEA make it clear. Schools must not use labels to limit a child to specific services, programs or placements. If your school tells you different, it is confused about the requirements.

You may access the Commentary here:

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