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Understand Legal Rights to Assist Students with Disabilities Entering College

September 12th, 2013

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.
The beginning of college or other post-secondary school represents an exciting and emotional time for any parent, filled with great pride but also great concern.  For students with disabilities, the emotions are amplified, as many parents wonder if their children are sufficiently prepared and ready to succeed in college.

With careful attention to this transition, parents can act as partners with their children without usurping and controlling the process.   Parents should understand their legal rights and the rights of their children to help the process go smoothly.

Know Your Parental Rights to Receive Information
As a general rule, pursuant to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), the right to access educational records transfers from parents to “eligible students” at age 18.  Many parents and even some colleges believe that this means that parents have no right to receive information or educational or records without student consent.  Many colleges, as a general practice, will not give parents information or educational records about their children.  However, if you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, as most parents do for college students, FERPA allows your student’s college to release student records and information to you, whether or not your child consents.

So if your student’s college resists providing information, let them know your child if financially dependent and, if necessary, you can provide your tax returns.
Encourage Your Child to Self-Advocate
Parents must help their children advocate for themselves. Ideally, students should have developed this skill in high school as part of transition services on their IEP, but many do not develop this skill by high school graduation.
If your child has not developed the skill of self-advocacy, there is still time.  Your student must know his or her strengths and areas of need and understand his or her legal rights. You can ask your student’s advisor to work with your child to help him or her self-advocate and explain the importance.
How much should you advocate for your college student? Every student is different. For students with disabilities initially adjusting to college, some parental advocacy is appropriate to get students settled. But ultimately, your goal should be to ensure your child understands his or her legal rights and can advocate.

Understand Your College Student’s Rights
Although colleges and universities do not have to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and develop IEPs or provide a free and appropriate public education, just about every institution must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.   This means that they must offer equal opportunity and access to opportunities for students with disabilities, and offer programs and services on the same basis as to non-disabled students. Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides, in relevant part that, individuals with disabilities shall not “be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations and services, but your child will have to initiate the request for accommodations or services and provide documentation.
Your student’s college should have a Disabilities Service Office and publish important information on student rights. The Office for Civil Rights has put together guidance written specifically for college students with disabilities and has also published important information on auxiliary aids and services.
Parents of High School Seniors
In a future entry, we will provide guidance for parents of students with disabilities in high school, preparing for college, to ensure your child is receiving appropriate transition services.

For more information visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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How Adults with Autism Can Manage Their Own Treatment Plan

August 26th, 2013

Children with autism spectrum disorders often receive support in school through special education, school psychologists and other services, and parents are usually closely involved in helping to develop their child’s treatment plan and following up to make sure that treatment is as effective as possible.

Once a child with autism turns 18, the situation changes. Although an adult with autism may benefit from continued treatment, and parents may be funding that treatment, parents will not necessarily have the same access to their adult child’s treatment providers, and thus cannot play the same role. In addition, it can be an important step for a young adult with autism to begin playing more of a role in directing his or her own treatment. However, this can often be a struggle.

For students on an individualized education program (IEP) in high school, there is a legal requirement that a plan be developed to help the student transition into adulthood. Research has shown that the more students can be encouraged to develop self-determination, the more they will be able to participate in their own IEP and transition plan. This transition into self-direction of his or her own treatment will serve the student well as a young adult.

One difficulty that is often encountered with young adults receiving treatment for autism is lack of coordination among multiple service providers. When the young adult was a child, his or her parents or school counselors may have worked to ensure that different types of treatment fit into a cohesive treatment plan. As an adult, it is important for a person with autism to understand, as much as possible, the goals of treatment and be able to judge whether or not various treatment options are meeting those goals. Needless to say, each young adult with autism has different capabilities, but the if parents work with their child toward self-determination during the teenage years, then the person will be more able to participate in his or her own treatment as an adult.

For more information about our legal services for people with special needs, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Understand Legal Rights to Assist Students with Disabilities Entering College

August 31st, 2012

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

The beginning of college or other post-secondary school represents an exciting and emotional time for any parent, filled with great pride but also great concern.  For students with disabilities, the emotions are amplified, as many parents wonder if their children are sufficiently prepared and ready to succeed in college.

With careful attention to this transition, parents can act as partners with their children without usurping and controlling the process.   Parents should understand their legal rights and the rights of their children to help the process go smoothly.

Know Your Parental Rights to Receive Information
As a general rule, pursuant to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), the right to access educational records transfers from parents to “eligible students” at age 18.  Many parents and even some colleges believe that this means that parents have no right to receive information or educational or records without student consent.  Many colleges, as a general practice, will not give parents information or educational records about their children.  However, if you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, as most parents do for college students, FERPA allows your student’s college to release student records and information to you, whether or not your child consents. 34 CFR  §99(a)(8).

So if your student’s college resists providing information, let them know your child if financially dependent and, if necessary, you can provide your tax returns.

Encourage Your Child to Self-Advocate
Parents must help their children advocate for themselves. Ideally, students should have developed this skill in high school as part of transition services on their IEP, but many do not develop this skill by high school graduation. 

If your child has not developed the skill of self-advocacy, there is still time.  Your student must know his or her strengths and areas of need and understand his or her legal rights. You can ask your student’s advisor to work with your child to help him or her self-advocate and explain the importance.

How much should you advocate for your college student? Every student is different. For students with disabilities initially adjusting to college, some parental advocacy is appropriate to get students settled. But ultimately, your goal should be to ensure your child understands his or her legal rights and can advocate.

Understand Your College Student’s Rights
Although colleges and universities do not have to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and develop IEPs or provide a free and appropriate public education, just about every institution must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.   This means that they must offer equal opportunity and access to opportunities for students with disabilities, and offer programs and services on the same basis as to non-disabled students. Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides, in relevant part that, individuals with disabilities shall not “be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations and services, but your child will have to initiate the request for accommodations or services and provide documentation.

Your student’s college should have a Disabilities Service Office and publish important information on student rights. The Office for Civil Rights has put together guidance written specifically for college students with disabilities and has also published important information on auxiliary aids and services.

Parents of High School Seniors

In a future entry, we will provide guidance for parents of students with disabilities in high school, preparing for college, to ensure your child is receiving appropriate transition services.

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