Chapter 9: Learning Disabilities And The Law

Words to know for chapter nine:
ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act
Equal Opportunity – everyone can do it
Accommodation – something to make things easier
 Interfere – get in the way
 Section 504 – part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
 IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Federal – involves the entire United States
Qualified – meets someone’s requirement
Assessment – measuring your skills and needs
Evaluation – measuring your skills and needs
 IEP – Individual Education Plan
 Entitled – something that is yours if you need it
Assessment Report – describes your skills and needs  Case Manager – your special education advocate
Goal – something you need to get done in the future
Objectives – small steps you take toward your goals
Measured – evaluated to see progress
Transition – moving from one thing to another
Participation – being involved
Leisure – fun, and relaxation
Career – adult job plan
Disrupting – bothering
Bill of Rights – the rights of every citizen in the USA
Rights – what you are legally entitled to
Responsibilities – what you are expected to do
Severe discrepancy – very big difference

“As a detective, the law is a very important part of my life. As an LD student, it is also a very important part of your life. Let’s explore this area to see how the law can affect you.”

With a learning disability, there are three very important federal laws that apply to you. Let’s start first with the very broadest:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
The ADA:

  • guarantees equal opportunity and appropriate accommodations for all individuals with disabilities involving:
  • employment
  • public accommodations (stores, restaurants, etc.)
  • transportation (busses, etc.)
  • state and local government services telecommunications services (telephone)

The ADA really applies to just about everything in your life.
Basically, the Americans with Disabilities Act says that if your disability “interferes” with your ability to use any service that is available to everyone else, you have a right to appropriate accommodations……..just like in school.
The Americans with Disabilities Act may become more important to you after you complete your education. “Now let’s look at a law that really applies to your education…”

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504: ” guarantees the right to an appropriate education (including necessary accommodations) for any student with a disability
Section 504 says that you have the right to any service, activity, or program in school that is available to anyone else. If your disability “interferes with any school service, activity, or program, you have the right to appropriate accommodations.
Section 504 is especially important for students who have a disability but do not “qualify” for Special Education services. For example, a student with an attention deficit disorder (ADD) may get support and accommodations from section 504 instead of Special Education.
  “And finally, probably the most important law for you……… (could I have a drum roll please?)….”
                          I D E A

You know what an idea is, but did you know that IDEA is a very important law for you? The letters I-D-E-A stand for:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  

IDEA is also known as public law 94-142. The main things for you to know are that IDEA: requires special education services to be provided for students with a “qualified” disability requires an assessment or evaluation (testing) of any student suspected of having a disability requires an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for every student who receives special education

OK, so what does all that really mean?
IDEA = Your Right to Special Education!
  IDEA just means that you are entitled to any Special Education services necessary so that your identified disability (in your case, LD) does not keep you from getting an appropriate education.
  There are two very important “documents” which are always part of your Special Education records:

Assessment Report
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
Your assessment report:
  IDEA requires that you be “evaluated” (tested) before any Special Education services can begin. The reasons for this evaluation are:
To find out if you “qualify” for services.
To find out what you might need from Special Education. Remember, to “qualify” for special education services because of a learning disability you need to have a processing weakness and severe discrepancy (underachievement).

Your assessment report should clearly show why you qualify for special education and what your special education “needs” are.
  Important clue! When you are in Special Education, you need a complete reevaluation and new assessment report at least every three years. A new evaluation can be requested sooner than three years if it is felt that important information might be discovered which could improve your special education services.
  “The assessment report is a very important document which can help you learn more about your learning disability.”
  Your IEP:
  The IEP is the document schools use to guarantee your right to appropriate special education services.
  If you are to become an effective self-advocate you need to know the following information about your IEP:
  EP stands for “Individual Education Plan.” That means it is a plan written especially for you. The right to an IEP is guaranteed to you by the Federal law called IDEA. When you have an IEP, you are assigned a case manager (sometimes called an “IEP manager”). Since you have a learning disability, your case manager is a teacher who is certified in the Special Education area referred to as “Specific Learning Disabilities” or “SLD.” Your case manager helps advocate for you at school and will also help you learn to advocate for yourself. Your case manager is a very important link between you, your parents, and your teachers.

“I know this is kind of long and boring, but all of this is very important for you to know. Stay with me and we’ll get through it.”


  Your IEP is developed by a team of people working together. This team should include:
Most importantly – YOU! Your parents or guardians Your teachers Your case manager Your IEP should show your current progress in school along with any important information from the latest assessment report. This information is used to help identify areas where you need special education support. Any important medical information may also be included in the IEP. For example, if you take medication for an attention deficit disorder (ADD), that could be important information in your IEP.

Long-term Goals and short-term Objectives are written on the IEP so that you and your case manager can know exactly what you need to work on. Because your learning disability never really goes away, you may work on the same or very similar goals and objectives for several years. Objectives should be written so that they can be measured to see your progress. When you accomplish your goals and objectives, other goals and objectives may be written. When your IEP team can no longer think of any goals or objectives for you, your IEP is considered “completed” and you will no longer receive special education support.

Your IEP is confidential. This means that only a few people have the right to see it. Your IEP must be rewritten annually (once a year). The IEP can also be reviewed when appropriate during that year. These reviews are important to be sure that your goals and objectives are appropriate and that you are making progress. The IEP must list academic accommodations or modifications that are needed in order for you to learn and perform successfully at school. You can always request other accommodations, but it is the ones listed on your IEP that are required for you by law. Students who are at least 14 years old or students who are in at least 9th grade must also have TRANSITION goals included in their IEP.

The five TRANSITION areas are:

Community Participation Jobs and Job Training Home Living Post-Secondary Education and Training Recreation and Leisure

These transition goals will become even more important to you as you continue on with your education at the high school level and as you begin to look more seriously at your career goals.  

Your IEP makes sure that any services you receive are provided in the least restrictive environment.
This just means that special education needs to treat you as much as possible like any other student who does not have a disability. You should only be given the support and services that you really “need” in order to be successful.
The real purpose of your IEP is to help you reach your full potential as a student without disrupting your life any more than is absolutely necessary.
You can think of your IEP as your own personal “Bill of Rights”.
  “Wow!!!! Your learning disability really gives you some pretty powerful legal rights!”
  IDEA makes sure you get the right special education services,
  Section 504 makes sure you can get appropriate accommodations for everything else in school, and
  ADA makes sure you can get appropriate accommodations outside of school, for the rest of your life.
“Those are three very important laws!!!”
  “But wait, this isn’t exactly a free ride…”
  “Along with your very special and important rights come some very important responsibilities!”
  If you are really going to be a successful self-advocate and get the most out of your education, there are some things that you will need to do.

You need to help with your own evaluation. You can do that by really trying to do your best when tested so that the examiner can really identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you have any idea that the test results may not be accurate (maybe you had a bad day), let your case manager or the examiner know that.   You need to attend IEP conferences. You need to be there to understand your IEP, make important suggestions, and speak up if you disagree with any part of your IEP. You need to participate willingly in goal-setting. The IEP team needs your help to figure out what goals you need to work on. Let the IEP team know if you are uncomfortable with any goal or objective.   You need to work hard to achieve your goals. You need to really understand and respect your rights. Don’t seek accommodations that your really don’t “need” just to make your life easier. But if you do need something, let someone know!

“We have really found out a lot of important information about your legal rights!”
  “We have discovered that the law protects your rights to appropriate accommodations everywhere, not just in school.”
  “We have also found out that the value of your legal right to accommodations really depends upon your willingness to participate and be involved.”
  “OK, so all this legal stuff can be rather boring. But it is sure nice to know that the laws are there for you if you ever need them.”

Review Questions:

1. What is the name of the most important law for your special education services?

2. Can you think of any way the Americans with Disabilities Act can help you after you complete your education?

3. How can Section 504 help you?

4.  What does a case manager do for you and your IEP?

5. Give two reasons an IEP is important for you.

6.  Who can be part of your IEP team?

7. If you have ADD or ADHD, can that information be included in your IEP?

8. Do any of the laws discussed in this chapter give you any rights in foreign countries?

9.  Which of the following laws give(s) you the right to accommodations for your disability (circle one answer)?

a) Americans with Disabilities Act
b) Section 504
c) Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
d) All of these laws

10.  How often are you normally retested in special education?

11. What is one reason for the special education assessment?

12.  Why are goals and objectives important on your IEP?

“Still hungry for more clues about your legal rights? Here are some places you might look for more information:”
  School library
  Public library
  Internet search “learning disabilities law”
Return to Table of Contents
Proceed to Chapter 10 – Becoming an Effective Self Advocate 

Published with Permission Of Writer: Scott L. Crouse, Ph.D. A website dedicated to the advancement of practical knowledge and understanding about the often mysterious world of Learning Disabilities. 
Copyright � 1996 Scott L. Crouse