Special Education – What Does IDEA Say About Functional Skills, and How Will It Help My Child?

Are you the parent of a child, receiving special education services,
that thinks your child may benefit from functional skill training?
Would you like to know what the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) requires in relation to functional skills? Would
you like parenting tips on using IDEA requirements to help your child
receive functional skill training? This article is for you; it will
discuss IDEA requirements, and how you can use them to advocate for
functional skills training for your child.

The purpose of IDEA is to ensure that all children with disabilities
have available to them a free appropriate public education that
emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet
their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment,
and independent living. Education is more than reading, writing, and
math; it also includes functional skills to help children with
disabilities live a full and rewarding life.

IDEA requires each child’s IEP to contain a statement of present
levels of academic achievement and functional performance. School
personnel should give you objective information (testing) each year,
about your child’s academic and functional performance. Do not accept
teacher subjective observations and grades (also subjective), to
determine if your child is making academic and functional progress.
Around Christmas time ask that testing be performed in the areas of
academics and functional skills, in January, so that these results can
be used at the annual IEP meeting. Also ask for copies of the testing
at least 14 days before the meeting, so that you will be able to be an
equal participant in the meeting.

IDEA also requires that the IEP contains a statement of measurable
annual goals, including academic and functional goals. Since you asked
for testing at Christmas time, and hopefully have received the results
before the IEP meeting, you will have some knowledge of your child’s
academic and functional needs. Write a few academic and functional
goals, and make sure they are measurable. In other words, how will you
know when your child has made the goal? Bring the list with you to
your child’s IEP meeting. Share your input on annual academic and
functional goals with the IEP team.

By understanding what the federal law IDEA states about functional
skills, you can use the information to ensure that your child is
tested in this area, and has annual goals developed for their IEP, if
needed. Functional skills will help your child become as independent
as possible as an adult, and live a more fulfilled life!

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