Even though a child is “special needs” or has a disability, it does not mean they cannot live a happy, fulfilling life with the proper support and services. However, special needs families face a number of unique challenges, such as making sure a child receives necessary health care, making sure the child has an advocate, and educating the family about public assistance and disability benefits.
For children with special needs, the legality of certain issues can be particularly tricky. From navigating public schools to legal guardianships, special needs families sometimes have unique legal needs.
Here is a list of the top four legal issues special needs families face.
Avoid Discrimination and Profiling
One of the most difficult aspects of parenting a special needs child is finding accommodations to help them repeatedly face discrimination and profiling—both on the school playground and in other public spaces. Unfortunately, special needs children face extra scrutiny during travel, particularly at the airport.
If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you are familiar with the restrictions that can come from that. But did you know that these restrictions can also impact how you live your life and interact with others in the world? In short, if you are a parent of a child with special needs, you might face discrimination from strangers, co-workers, or service providers. And that is just the legal side of things. As parents, it can be hard to know how to deal with situations like this.
Bullying by Peers
Bullying by peers is a major issue facing special needs families. The implied threat of bullying is a daily reality for many children. It can lead to fear of going to school, depression, substance abuse, broken families, and even suicide. Children with special needs are far more likely to suffer bullying than those without, and special needs children are also much more likely to be victims of cyberbullying.
Bullying by peers is a significant issue facing special needs families. Parents are the primary caregivers of a child with special needs, often dealing with the emotional trauma left in the wake of bullying. One of the most difficult things for families is confronting their child’s peers about exclusion and bullying. This issue is compounded by the nature of bullying, which is not always physical. Bullying also crosses socioeconomic lines, with high school students with families of means facing unique challenges.
School Districts Bullying
A child with special needs will likely have special needs throughout their lifetime. Depending on the child’s condition, the family may face various stressors. Not only are there regular challenges such as managing a child’s medical condition and attending to their educational needs, but a family may also face worries that their child is being bullied at school.
For thousands of children with special needs and their families, the public school system is the center of their lives. It is where they learn, grow, socialize, and often make friends for life. It is also where they are likely to face bullying, harassment, and discrimination. While discrimination by other children and adults in the school or a teacher’s treatment is against the law, bullying caused by the school district is not.
Accessing Government Services
Families of special needs children face many challenges when accessing government services. This is especially true when a child with special needs has autism or another disability. However, there are a variety of legal rights that special needs families are entitled to under the law. These legal rights include the right to fair treatment, the right to free appropriate public education, and the right to a family life free from harassment.
Navigating government services can be a daunting task for special needs families. As families seek care for their loved ones, they often face legal barriers, complex forms, inefficient processes, and inflexible standards. As the parent of a special needs child, you are already acutely aware of the impact of challenging behaviors on your ability to participate in society. These behaviors can also affect your ability to access government services and struggle with issues such as accessible housing and transportation, education, employment, health, and social services, as well as general living.