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FAPE. What is it, who gets it, and how is it delivered?

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced some negativity from parents of children without disabilities when it comes to my child being in the same class with their child.  I’m not here to debate but instead to offer some basic information and try to educate those who aren’t familiar with what FAPE is, who is eligible and how it applies to their child in particular.


Does FAPE apply to my child?

If you live in the United States and your child is of school age then yes, your child is eligible for a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

The Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirement for all children, including those without disabilities, is guaranteed by the United States Constitution and federal law. The cornerstone of this requirement is the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees that all children, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, have the right to equal access to a public education. Additionally, several federal education laws, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also provide for the provision of a public education for all children.


How is FAPE different for a child with a disability?

For children with disabilities, the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirement is further defined and extended by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law requires that public schools provide a tailored educational program that meets the unique needs of children with disabilities, known as an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP process involves the development of a customized plan for each child that outlines their strengths and weaknesses, sets academic and functional goals, and outlines the special education and related services that the child will receive. In addition, IDEA provides for procedural safeguards to ensure that children with disabilities and their families have meaningful participation in the IEP development process and can challenge decisions made by the school.

So, while all children are entitled to a FAPE, the provisions and protections for children with disabilities are more specific and robust under IDEA.


Should children with disabilities be included in the general education classroom?

Yes, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities are entitled to be included in the general education classroom to the greatest extent appropriate. This is known as the principle of "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE), which means that children with disabilities should be educated with their non-disabled peers as much as possible, and only separated for special education services when the nature or severity of their disability is such that education in the general classroom cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

IDEA requires that each child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) be developed with the LRE principle in mind and that the IEP team consider the child's need for special education and related services in relation to their ability to be successful in a general education setting. In general, the goal is to provide children with disabilities with the support they need to be successful in the general education classroom and to allow them to interact and engage with their non-disabled peers as much as possible.

What are some of the benefits for non-disabled children to an inclusive classroom?

  1. Increased empathy and understanding: Non-disabled children can learn about and develop empathy for others who are different from them, promoting a more inclusive and accepting society.
  2. Improved social skills: Children without disabilities can learn how to interact with and support their peers with disabilities, developing strong social and communication skills.
  3. Exposure to diverse perspectives and ways of thinking: Children in inclusive classrooms are exposed to a range of abilities, experiences, and ways of thinking, broadening their perspective and helping them to understand the world in new ways.
  4. Preparation for real-world diversity: Inclusive classrooms provide children with exposure to the diverse world they will encounter as adults, preparing them for success in a diverse society.
  5. Improved academic performance: Children without disabilities can benefit from the inclusive learning environment, as research has shown that all students in inclusive classrooms tend to perform better academically. Additionally, having a mix of abilities in the classroom can provide challenges and opportunities for growth for all students.


Key takeaways.

It's important to understand that all children, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the law. While FAPE may look different for children with disabilities, it must be tailored to meet their individual needs and provide them with the same quality education as their non-disabled peers. In inclusive classrooms, children with and without disabilities can learn, grow, and thrive together, creating a more inclusive and accepting society. By providing all children with the resources and support they need to succeed, we can help them to reach their full potential and make a positive impact on the world.

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