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A Primer on Special Education Law, for Pediatricians and Parents

Date Published: 
December 10, 2015

photo of Dr. Paul Lipkin of IANA new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says pediatric health care providers play a critical role in helping children with disabilities obtain appropriate special education and related services from their schools.

The report provides a primer on key aspects of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which entitles children with disabilities in the United States to a free, appropriate public education from birth to age 21. Doctors can provide parents and schools with information to ensure that those children get their educational needs met, according to the article published in Pediatrics this month. The report also explains two other laws that affect students with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

"Every pediatrician deals with children who have these needs, so we think it’s incumbent upon them to understand the fundamentals of these laws,” said lead author, Dr. Paul H. Lipkin, a pediatric specialist in neurodevelopmental disabilities and director of the Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute.  

The authors of "The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for Children With Special Educational Needs" are Dr. Lipkin, Jeffrey Okamoto, MD., and the AAP Councils on Children with Disabilities, and School Health.

The report concluded, "Although providers are advised to respect the educational expertise of school professionals, they can safeguard that children with disabilities and other health or behavioral issues receive appropriate services from EI [Early Intervention] and school programs throughout their childhood years. Providers can particularly support these children and their families through critical transitions from the initial referral to EI and school systems through the transition into adulthood."