These are some of the more frequently asked questions that parents just receiving a diagnosis may ask. I have provided links, whenever possible, to the source of the information. If you do not see the answer that you are seeking, please look at our Resources page which has many authoritative websites.

What is a Developmental Disability?
What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
What Is The IDEA?
What Is Section 504?
What Is An IEP?
What Is A FAPE?
What Is An LRE?

What is a Developmental Disability?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities are a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities have problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs) such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) fall under the category of developmental disability.


What Is An Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
ASDs are "spectrum" disorders which means that they affect each person differently. Specifically, they are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Because there is a wide spectrum there is a significant difference in how these symptoms are manifested in each child. Generally, there are three areas on the "spectrum" where a child may be placed in his/her ASD diagnosis:

  1. Autistic Disorder or Autism is characterized by language delays, impaired social interaction and communication. There is often restricted and repetitive behavior. These symptoms manifest before the age of three.
  2. Asperger syndrome is similar to autism in that there is impaired social interaction, problems with communication and often restricted or repetitive behavior and interests. However, there is not a deficit in the linguistic and cognitive development of the child.
  3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a diagnosis generally given to children who meet some but not all of the qualifications for either Autism or Asperger's syndrome. People with PDD-NOS usually have symptoms that are milder than those associated with either autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome.



What Is The IDEA?
The Individual's with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a United States federal law. It was enacted to protect children with disabilities and their parents by requiring participating states (states that accept federal funding under the IDEA) to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet unique needs of disabled students and to prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. All states have accepted such funding and all states are subject to the requirements of this statute.

A good overview of the IDEA can be found at:
U.S. Department of Education

The actual statutory language for the IDEA can be found at:
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities


What Is Section 504?
Section 504 refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Unlike the IDEA, Section 504 covers all children with a disability who: 1) have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; 2) have a record of such an impairment; or 3) are regarded as having such an impairment.

Section 504 provides that:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States... shall solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

A good overview of Section 504 can be found at:Wrightslaw


What Is An IEP?

When a child is determined to be eligible for special education services a meeting to write an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be held. This IEP (both the meeting and the resulting document are commonly called an IEP) will be attended by the parents, administrators, paraprofessionals and service providers. The child's Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs), based on the assessments done by the school district, will be discussed and annual goals will be written by this "IEP Team" for the child. The IEP will include a roadmap for meeting these goals. Accommodations and services will be provided in the IEP document to assist the child in meeting the goals set by the IEP team.

This is a brief description of an IEP. There are many caveats regarding those required to attend an IEP, drafting quantifiable IEP goals and negotiating for services to meet these goals. I highly recommend the self-advocacy book by Wrightslaw,"From Emotions to Advocacy." I also recommend visiting my Special Needs Rights blog and reading the article that I authored entitled "Top Ten Tips: IEP Preparation and Meeting."

If your child is deemed ineligible for receiving special education services and you wish to challenge that decision you may wish to consider consulting with a lawyer or advocate.


What Is A FAPE?
A FAPE is a Free Appropriate Public Education and is guaranteed to your child under the IDEA. Courts have held that to receive a free appropriate public education, the child must receive a "meaningful educational benefit." It should be noted that an "appropriate" education does not mean the "best" education. The IEP is the "blueprint" for your FAPE in that the services and accommodations that will be given to your child to achieve an appropriate education are outlined in the IEP document.


What Is An LRE

An LRE is a Least Restrictive Environment. An LRE is one of the promises made by the IDEA and embodies the IDEAs preference that children with disabilities be educated with their non-disabled peers in regular classes to the "maximum extent possible." To accomplish this promise, the school district must provide appropriate supplementary aides and services. These services and accommodations will be determined at your IEP meeting and included in the resulting IEP document.



The Law Office of Janina Botchis
(818) 253-9444

Janina Botchis
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit My BLOG:
Special Needs Rights