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Reasonable Requests

The issue:
Parents' requests of the school need to be reasonable. Under usual circumstances, parents of children with disabilities should need only to request rather than demand services, and they need to be reasonably patient before moving to "demand mode."

The solution:
Special education laws, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and your state's local interpretation of this federal law, determine what schools must do to provide a "free and appropriate education" for your child with special needs. It is usually very easy to determine if a school system is out of compliance -- not doing for your child what the law requires. In cases that are less clear, parents may have to use an advocate or even an attorney to help them determine whether their child's rights are being violated. At any rate, the law is on the side of the child and the family.

The special education laws were developed to provide children with a reasonably good education and not a perfect education. So, if you start to demand services or accommodations that are deemed excessive, don't be surprised when the school digs in its heels. But if you feel that your school is not providing services that are clearly indicated because it can't afford to (or for any other reason), then call them to task -- or call your state's Department of Special Education or the Office for Civil Rights.

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