The Massachusetts Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) exists to ensure that all students with disabilities in the Commonwealth are provided a quality education. The organization helps parents of children with disabilities by providing information, resources, and support. It also provides training and opportunities for advocacy.
SEPAC offers free workshops throughout the year and is open to anyone who has a child with a disability or who is interested in advocacy for students with disabilities. The organization also maintains a Facebook page and Twitter feed that can be accessed through its website.
Special education is a service provided to children who are unable to access the general education curriculum. Special education services are available to students with disabilities from ages 3 through 22 and are based on eligibility determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) Team.
In Massachusetts, special education services are provided at no cost to families. Families play a critical role in the special education process and must be active participants in order to ensure that their child’s needs are being met. In order to support families and provide information regarding the special education process, there is a Parent Center in every school district. These centers offer support, advocacy, and training for parents and families.
In Massachusetts special education law is governed by the Massachusetts Inclusionary Practices Act and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA requires that children with special needs receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). According to this act, children with disabilities must be included in classrooms with their peers as much as possible.
Ideally all children benefit from inclusionary practices regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Students without disabilities have the chance to learn from their peers and increase empathy. Students with disabilities learn social skills and benefit from role models who are better at some tasks than they are.
Needless to say, many parents of children with special needs feel nervous about putting them in a mainstream classroom full of students who don’t have any special needs. It’s natural for parents to worry about whether their child will fit in or get the attention they need.
Special Education is a program of instruction tailored to meet the needs of children who have a disability. Special education services are provided at no cost to families. They include specially designed instruction and related services. Specially designed instruction is adapting, as appropriate, to the needs of an eligible student with a disability, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction. Related services include transportation and other developmental and corrective support services as identified in the Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Parents are encouraged to consider their child’s special education program options early in their child’s academic career. Parents have an important role in ensuring that children receive appropriate special education and related services.
The Department encourages parents wishing to explore these options or have questions about their child’s rights or responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to contact their local school district or the Parent Information Center for more information about these programs.