Fort Huachuca's Army Community Service Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) coordinator reminds homeschool parents there are services available through public schools for children with special needs.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal government provides funding to states for the education of students with disabilities. IDEA requires public schools to identify, locate and evaluate children with special needs, whether or not they attend public school.

"This means that public schools are universally required to offer free evaluations to homeschooled students suspected of having special needs," said Audrey Peterson-Hosto, EFMP coordinator.

Additionally, should a student be determined to have special needs that hinder the student's performance, the public school must convene an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, made up of the student's parents or guardians and assorted teachers and professionals, to develop an IEP.

While homeschooled children with special needs have a right to both evaluation and an IEP, these services are not mandatory and parental consent is required. While an IEP developed at a public school can be of use to a homeschooled student, its usefulness depends largely upon what services the student needs and what services, if any, the school makes available to homeschooled students.

Parents who are homeschooling a child who has been diagnosed with special needs, or whom they suspect may have special needs, would benefit from an awareness of what special needs services their children may be eligible to obtain through their local public schools. In addition to a familiarity with both federal and state law on the subject, they should contact their local school districts.

Have questions or need more information? The Fort Huachuca ACS EFMP staff can provide information and referral to Special Education Directors, Parent to Parent Networks and other resources. There is also an EFMP Library with books and DVDs on special education, IEPs and special education law and policy.

"We can also participate in the individualized education process for school-aged children if you need assistance," Peterson-Hosto said.

For information on special education and more, contact the Fort Huachuca ACS EFMP Staff at 520.533.6871.