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Educational Rights of Children With Disabilities: A Primer For Advocates

Eileen L. Ordover and Kathleen B. Boundy

Reviewed by members of NAMI's Literature Committee

Educational Rights of Children With Disabilities: A Primer For Advocates by Eileen L. Ordover and Kathleen B. Boundy. Available from the Center for Law and Education, 955 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, (617) 876-6611.

This book is designed for advocates -- parents, other volunteers, or professionals. It analyzes the rights of children with disabilities under two federal statutes, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Though the book is not written particularly for advocates of children with neurobiological disorders or mental illness, considerable attention is given to the concerns of this population.

The review of both IDEA and Section 504 make it appropriate for persons advocating for youngsters who have a handicapping condition but who do not meet the requirements for special education.

The book provides a framework for understanding federal regulations. The authors emphasize from the start that it must be read in conjunction with each state's statutes, regulations and judicial decisions regarding the education of children with disabilities.

The book is aimed at a wide audience and it provides a coherent description and analysis of the provisions of the federal laws it considers. The authors have done an excellent job of pulling out and organizing the essential core of what often appear to be incomprehensible regulations. After an initial general overview of these laws, specific sections address:

-- what is meant by "appropriate" education, "benefits," and "free" with regard to services required under both IDEA and Section 504;

-- issues regarding "related services" required for children diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, including residential treatment and psychotherapy;

-- rights, procedures and safeguards surrounding educational evaluations and placement of students;

-- individualized educational plans, including requirements for parent participation, review, and placement decisions;

-- discipline of students with disabilities, including the right not to be punished when the behaviors for which measures are being taken are related to the child's disability;

-- early intervention services for infants and toddlers.

I highly recommend this book to anyone representing a young person in the educational system. The major drawback I found was the absence of an index for use in finding specific topics.

To overcome this obstacle, I recommend that readers purchase a package of sticky tabs to label pertinent sections for quick reference.