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Legal Considerations & Advocacy

Disagreements may arise at various times in the process of seeking and receiving services for your child. When this happens, it is helpful to understand the legal nature of the special education process, how to use advocacy skills to achieve your goals, and how to seek independent evaluations.

"Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois" is a guide produced by the Illinois State Board of Education to help you understand the legal nature of special education and how it is implemented in Illinois.

Center for Parent Information Resources provides links to IDEA, Section 504/ADA, Disability Resolution, Parental Rights, and Self Advocacy.

What are the laws surrounding special education?

There are three basic laws that pertain to early intervention and early childhood special education. They are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA), No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Comprehensive summaries of these laws are available through:

Information about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA) is available through:

Information about the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is available through:

Illinois Legal Aid provides specific legal information for:

How do I use advocacy to achieve my goals?

"Advocacy" is achieved by collaboratively working for a mutually agreeable solution. While the hope is that most encounters with the educational system will be of the collaborative fashion, sometimes legal intervention will be necessary. Whatever your personal image, advocacy requires strength on the part of a parent to realize that they are their child's most important voice. Remember:

  • Parents are committed to their child for a lifetime.
  • Parents know their child best.

Becoming an effective advocate for your child takes practice and a basic knowledge of your legal rights. Resources to get you started include:

Where can I seek help in my advocacy efforts?

There are many organizations available to obtain advocacy support. Advocate supports can range from a trusted friend that attends meetings with you to an attorney hired to represent your child's needs.

Advocates can help you:

  • identify all sides of an issue
  • prioritize the issues and your goals
  • prepare and gather relevant data and information
  • build relationships and find common ground between various stake-holders
  • anticipate possible problems and brainstorm solutions

Many organizations provide training to help parents become more effective advocates. Advocacy Groups in Illinois include:

Resources provided by the Illinois State Board of Education include:

How do I seek an independent evaluation?

When disagreement arises over an educational placement, the type and quantity of services being offered, or the denial of services, it is sometimes useful to seek an independent evaluation from another professional. The purpose in seeking an independent evaluation is so that the professional may be able to bring additional information to the discussion to help you achieve a specific goal.

"Yellow Pages for Kids" provides a listing of independent evaluators and advocacy support professionals.

Contact Us

Johnna Darragh-Ernst

Professor Early Childhood Education

1500 W Raab Road
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-268-8746

Email: johnna.darragh@heartland.edu