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conversation on your phone so you can refer to it later. If that’s not possible, ask the provider to speak slowly and allow you to take notes. Request reputable refer- ences to gain further information about your child's diagnosis. Remember that you are your child's best advocate, and you have the freedom to disagree with your provider or ask for a second opinion.


 It is important to know your rights under U.S. law. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) gives children with special needs protection by mandating that schools must help them be prepared for further education, employment and inde- pendent living. Free education must be accessible in the least restrictive environ- ment. Appropriate evaluation is mandated with parent and teacher collaboration to determine the best student placement. The law also requires informed consent, "stay put" rights (requiring parents to be notified of any change and allowing the option of remaining until a dispute is settled), parental access to education records, parental participation in all meet- ings, due process and mediation. The law


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also has protections for confidentiality of information, transition services beginning at age 16 years, discipline protections and prohibiting the school from forcing your child to take a medication. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act pro- hibits schools from discriminating against children with disabilities and requires ac- commodations as needs arise. It also sup- ports the right for needs outside the school day, including extracurricular activities, sports, music lessons and afterschool care, affording special needs children the same opportunities as other kids. It applies to playgrounds, band programs, assemblies, field trips, clubs, after school/summer programs, bus transportation and gradu- ation. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that schools must meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document that tells you the special education services for which your child is eligible. It allows for accommodations, which may include a change in timing, formatting, setting or the way material is presented. The law requires parents to be notified any time the IEP is changed.


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