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Children with Special Needs in Military Families

November 15th, 2012

By Marion Walsh, Esq.

This month, we recognize the many sacrifices our military personnel and their families make to serve our country.  Few of us stop to consider the sacrifices of the most vulnerable family members of military personnel—children with disabilities.  It’s difficult for any child to be uprooted from a location every few years or more but having a disability compounds this disruption.  Children with disabilities benefit from consistency and a supportive, familiar community and programs.  Fortunately, the IDEA protects children with disabilities and requires school districts to provide a free appropriate education to all children, including children of military families, even when children live overseas.  The IDEA requires school districts to immediately implement a student’s former IEP when he or she transfers from another location.  Then, the school district will hold a CSE to amend the IEP as needed.  But parents must be proactive.   Here are three steps military families can take to protect their children:

1)     Keep your own copies of your child’s records.  Sometimes school districts take time to transfer records and to ensure a new transition into a new school.

2)     Be aware of your child’s emotional needs.  Children do not always adjust seamlessly to a new environment.  Stay carefully attuned to your child’s social and emotional adjustment after each move especially for adolescents and teenagers, who may appear stoic but face adjustment problems.

3)     Don’t be afraid to complain and speak out.  While few individuals are more resilient than members of the military, this trait will not help your child with a disability.  Alert the school district to problems early on and ensure that you advocate and speak up.

For more information on DOD Special Education, visit http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/dod.index.htm or visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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