July 26, 2023

Legal Education Rights of Children with Autism in the USA

The prevalence of autism in the United States increases day by day with newly found information. It may be confusing on what to focus in terms of your child’s education. Although there are many ways to get information and help, many parents of children with autism are unfamiliar with the legal rights and protections that their children have by law. It is important to know your child’s rights in order to provide them with a better education life to lead them in life. Here are some general topics to give an idea.

This information prepared for a general overview. They may change with coming updates. It is recommended to take legal assistance in the matter.

legal rights

Right to Public Education

Children with special needs have the right to a free and appropriate education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that each state should provide all eligible children with a public education that meets their needs.

It is stated in IDEA that children with various disabilities including autism are entitled to an intervention and special education. The parents need to be an equal partner in the child’s education dialogue. Parents should be a part of their child’s education plan in order to be a strong advocate for their children.

It is important to know that your child is entitled to an education that is made to meet his/her special needs. This is Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE). Your child is also entitled to experience the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), that is your child needs to be placed in the environment where he/she will have the best possible opportunity to interact with other children without disabilities. This is also called inclusion or mainstreaming. There are many ways this can be achieved in the general education settings with a general education curriculum. The only thing to make sure of is that if this is the best way to follow for your child’s needs.

Early Intervention Services

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides grants for early intervention programs. Through these programs, every child younger than three with the developmental, physical or mental condition can be eligible.

Programs vary from state to state. However, the key point is to address the child’s special and unique needs. They aim to minimize the impact of disabilities on the child’s development. Some of these programs are speech and language instruction, occupational therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Families also get counseling in order to help them adapt the new way of life.

Special Education Services

These services begin after the early intervention phase when the child is older than 3. Local school districts have devoted special education services to provide this service. The purpose of special education is different from early intervention. While in early intervention your child gets an education regardless of the disability, in special education, your child’s specific and unique needs are addressed. There is a document that states your child’s needs and how these needs will be met; the Individualized Education Program (IEP). IEP spells out your child’s strengths and weaknesses and sets goals and objects and states how these objects will be met in detail. This document is specially made for your child, so you and the school district’s contributions are essential. Knowing your legal rights will increase the chance of a better educational outcome. (Learn more about IEPs here)


You are the advocate for your child. It is of essence that you know both your and your child’s rights. If you think your child is not getting the right and suitable education, you may need to enter into mediation to resolve the issue. There was a pure example , where a family of a teenager with autism, won a court-order mediation because a private school in NJ failed to provide him with an Individualized Education Plan.

To get more information, visit IDEA's website


- Findlaw:

Last Updated: December 30, 2022


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.