The Intersection of Special Education & Social Security Eligibility

Meet Emmy (pictured). She is our Special Education Advocate. 

You can read more about her here: Emily Haynes 

Social Security Eligibility
As a parent with a child receiving Social Security benefits, you are most likely aware that to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your child has “a physical or mental condition or a combination of conditions that results in “marked and severe functional limitations. This means that the condition(s) must very seriously limit your child’s activities.” Examples include: HIV infection; Total blindness; Total deafness; Cerebral palsy; Down syndrome; Muscular dystrophy; Severe intellectual disability (child age 7 or older); Low Birth weight

Social Security Benefits
In addition to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a child with disabilities as defined by the Social Security Administration may also be eligible for: Rehabilitation and training if older that age 15, Medicare/Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Special Education
In addition to SSI, you may also be eligible for special education for your child. All children have the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Children with disabilities may need to be taught in a different way than typical children, and may not be able access that free and appropriate public education without support. There are two main Acts that protect children with disabilities: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Generally
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may protect your child. IDEA provides federal assistance to State and local education agencies to guarantee special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities, ages 3-21. The goal of IDEA is to serve children with disabilities by meeting their “unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Eligibility
An important part of the IDEA called Child Find requires schools to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of their situations, who have significant, individual needs and require intensive interventions through special education and related services.

In other words, your child must be found to meet all three factors:
1. Have a disabling condition
2. Have an adverse effect on education performance
3. Need for special education

IDEA has 13 categories, and children must be identified in one of them to be eligible. These are: Autism, Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impaired, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visual Impairment

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Benefits
Parents can request that their child be evaluated, and schools must respond appropriately. Reevaluation of the child occurs every three years, and a knowledgeable team must conduct both the initial evaluation and all subsequent evaluations. Parents have the right to request an Independent Education Evaluation at public expense one time for every evaluation.

Once children have been identified, the schools are required to determine if they are eligible for special education services, and if they are, to provide those services in an appropriate manner. This plan is called an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and parents are valuable and contributing members of the IEP team. IEPs outline the strengths and weaknesses of the child, and set out goals for the child to work toward with specific instruction and accommodations. Parents must be updated at regular intervals with actual data showing progress towards those goals. Finally, IDEA provides important protections children with disabilities in the area of discipline, if the reason for the disruptive behavior is related to their disability.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Protections
If you believe your child needs special education, or is receiving services but is not progressing, your IEP and/or Evaluation may not be adequate.

In 2015, the Federal government determined that Ohio “Needs Assistance” because of low scores in special education. Specifically, our percentage of children with disabilities who drop out of high school is dangerously low: 22%. Only 47% of children with disabilities graduate with a regular diploma. Both these measures suggest that special education in Ohio is not meeting the requirement to provide those children with a free and appropriate public education.

You have options under IDEA to raise questions, disagree with schools, and to ensure that your child’s individual needs are being met. These include notice, consent, available complaint procedures, mediation, and due process.

Section 504: Generally
IDEA provides specialized special education to children with disabilities, but not all children are adversely affected by their disability. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Section 504: Eligibility
A similar Child Find is found in Section 504. It requires schools to evaluate any student “who, because of a handicap, needs or is believed to need special education and related services.” That handicap or impairment must substantially limit a major life activity, have a record of such impairment or be regarded as having such impairment. Major life activities include: Caring for one’s self, Performing manual tasks, Walking, Seeing, Hearing, Speaking, Breathing, Learning, Working. Eating, Sleeping, Standing, Lifting, Bending, Reading, Concentrating, Thinking, Communicating, and finally, “major bodily functions” that are major life activities.

Section 504: Benefits
Section 504 generally provides accommodations to children with disabilities. For example, a child with a severe peanut allergy would be protected under a 504 plan, as would a child with ADHD who needs movement breaks during testing. Because 504 targets nondiscrimination, a 504 plan delineates reasonable accommodations and services so that education, nonacademic and extracurricular services are provided with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate for the child with the disability. These activities may include counseling, athletics, transportation, health services, and special interests groups or clubs.

Section 504: Protections
The Office of Civil Rights regulates a 504 plan. Procedures available to parents are notice, grievance procedures and due process hearings. Discipline of children under a 504 is also protected, although not to the same extent of children under IEPs .

Questions? Call us! 614.745.2001

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