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For Delaware Families.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The IDEA 2004 was reauthorized and signed into law on December 3, 2004. The IDEA regulations include transition services, which is defined as a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that is

  • designed to be within a results-oriented process, and focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to postschool activities including post-secondary education, Vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
  • based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests, and
  • includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. [34 CFR 300.43 (a)] [20 U.S.C. 1401(34)] (Building the Legacy of IDEA 2004, IDEA Regulations, Secondary Transition).

The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is to ensure that all children with disabilities receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The education should emphasize special education and related services to meet their unique needs and prepare them for “further education, employment and independent living.” [1] At the end of the school year when a student reaches the age of 22, or when they graduate with a regular diploma, the entitlement to a Free and Appropriate Public Education ends. Another excellent source is the IDEA Partnership, with a web page on Autism Spectrum Disorders. The six principles of IDEA are outlined by the Learning Disabilities Association of America: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Section 504 of Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the ADA

Section 504 and ADA ensure that an individual with disabilities has access to supportive services such as an aid in a classroom setting, accessibility to extracurricular activities, and protections in employment. These two civil rights laws protect individuals with disabilities from disability-related discrimination whether it is in education, the workplace or public accommodations (such as a restaurant or public building).Section 504 is more limited in that it only applies to institutions that receive Federal Funds such as schools, while the ADA's broader scope applies to state and local government services as well as a number of public services, whether or not they are Federally funded. They both require that individuals with disabilities not be denied access to appropriate services or supports that may be necessary to meet their needs. Importantly, these two laws protect individuals with ASD when their protections are no longer in effect under IDEA, that is, once they turn 22.

Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements vary by state, as do the diplomas that are awarded.

Delaware Graduation Requirements

Delaware students are required to begin school no later than age 8 and continue until age 17 or until graduation from high school, whichever comes first (22 DE Code § 11.13). Students who are eligible for special education services may attend school through the age of 21 unless they decide to graduate and are awarded a diploma from their school district (C.F.R. § 300.300). Students of school age may qualify for graduation by attending the public school part-time when legally employed part-time or enrolled in a post-secondary program part-time (22 DE Code § 11.5).

Certificate of Performance vs. High School Diploma

A student receiving special education services has until the age of 21 to attend his/her local high school. If a student meets the requirements of the IEP but has not completed the graduation course requirements, he or she may graduate with a Certificate of Performance instead of a High School Diploma.

A Certificate of Performance is a document that acknowledges that the student attended high school, but it does not have the weight that a high school diploma would have. The major difference is that a high school diploma indicates that the student has completed academic work whereas a Certificate of Performance indicates the student worked mostly on vocational training/life skills.

If your child is able to complete the academic requirements (see Delaware code), he or she should be eligible for a High School Diploma instead of a Certificate of Performance. It is not possible to override any of the graduation requirements specified in the Delaware code. It is important for families and school professionals to carefully consider if a student will be able to obtain a High School Diploma and to ensure that students are following the necessary course of study to meet the requirements of this Diploma.

For example, Christopher, an adult with Autism who lives in Delaware, was not permitted by his local public High School to take courses toward a High School diploma, and instead was issued a Certificate of Performance. After graduation, Christopher was unable to find employment. Christopher decided to return to school through the James Groves High School program to complete his High School Diploma. Christopher has been successful with this program, and is now employed full-time with a large company locally. In retrospect, Christopher should have earned a High School Diploma initially rather than a Certificate of Performance.

As students with disabilities are eligible to receive special education services until age 21, it is also important to note that receiving a High School Diploma does not prevent a student from receiving special education services from age 18 to 21. Students with disabilities who have completed the credit requirements for a High School Diploma can "walk" with their class at graduation. If they have unmet needs in their IEPs, they may be eligible to return to the high school the following year through age 21. The diploma is then held until they turn 21. In this situation, the IEP team must carefully consider the intended outcomes for special education services and the reasons for returning to the high school rather than moving on to adult services. The need for special education services between ages 18 and 21 should not be a reason to choose a Certificate of Performance over a High School Diploma.

What is a Career Pathway?

Career Pathway courses are pre-planned and sequential courses required for graduation designed to develop knowledge and skills in a particular career or academic area. The Career Pathway shall be included in the Student Success Plan.

What is a Student Success Plan?

A Student Success Plan (SSP) is a plan developed for all students in DE. The SSP encompasses a minimum of five years including one year beyond high school developed and is updated at least annually by the student, the student’s advisor, at least one other staff member and the student’s parent/guardian. The student’s plan includes courses needed in preparation for immediate entry into the work force or opportunities in post secondary education. The plan also includes the support services necessary for the student to graduate from high school. An additional year of high school may be an option for inclusion in the Student Success Plan.

See Also:  For more information on specific courses needed for graduation, check out this website: Delaware code

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Fair Housing Laws

There are three federal laws which protect individuals with disabilities from housing discrimination and which require landlords to provide reasonable accommodations/modifications so that an individual with disabilities can use a dwelling or unit: Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, the American Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act:

The Act stipulates that if you have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, your landlord may not:

  •  refuse to make "reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
  • refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.

For further information, refer to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)


Laws and Regulations Resources


  1. Topic: Secondary Transition U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs 02-01-2007 [online]