Twenty-one years ago President Ford along with Congress passed legislation that was intended to improve opportunities in education for handicapped children and adults through the provision of a free appropriate public education. This law was called Public Law 94-142. This law provided that handicapped children and adults ages 3-21 be educated in the "least restrictive environment" to the maximum extent appropriate, meaning that they are educated with children who are not handicapped and that special classes, separate schools or other removal of children from their regular educational environment occurs only when the severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved.

Before a child can be placed in a special education program, an extensive evaluation procedure is required by PL 94-142. These criteria must be determined before a child can be placed:

	-whether a child has a physical or mental disability that
	substantially limits learning.
	-the possible causes of a child's disability
	-strengths and weaknesses of a child in physical, emotional,
	social, vocational and intellectual areas
	-the educational diagnosis category that best describes a 
	child's disability
	-the special services, instructional techniques and other
	interventions that the child needs
	-the appropriate instructional placement for the child
	-reasonable predictions of the child's academic, social and 
        vocational potential
The school is required to receive written permission from the parent before conducting an evaluation of the child.

Once the child's evaluation is complete and it is determined that the child is indeed eligible for placement in special education, an Individual Education Plan (i.e.p.) must be written to meet the needs of that child. An interdisciplinary team is formed to write the child's I.E.P. Under PL 94-142, the team should, at a minimum, consist of a representative of the local school district, the child's teachers and the child's parents. PL 94-142 does stipulate certain criteria that are to be included in the I.E.P. Included should be a statement of the child's present level of educational performance; the annual goals, including short term instructional objectives; the specific special education and related services to be provided for the child and the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular education program; the projected dates for initiation of services and anticipated duration of services; the appropriate objective criteria and assessment procedures and schedule for determining on at least an annual basis whether the short term instructional objectives are being met.

Parents should be provided training through a not-for-profit agency to enable them to participate more effectively with professionals in meeting educational needs of their child. This training should enable parents to:

	-better understand nature and needs of the handicapping 
	conditions of the child.
	-provide follow-up support for the child's educational program
	-participate in educational decision making process including 
	the development of the I.E.P.
	-obtain information about programs, resources, and services 
	available to child and parent
	-understand provisions for the education of their child 
	under PL 94-142
Prepared by Shannon Payne