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Fall 1999 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Rud and Ann Turnbull, Love Publishing

Reprinted with the expressed consent and approval of Exceptional Parent, a monthly magazine for parents and families of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Subscription cost is $36 per year for 12 issues; Call 1-877-372-7368. Offices at 555 Kinderkamack Rd. Oradell, N.J. 07649.

Our first book review presented what we believe is a "must carry" resource in every advocate's briefcase - The Prospector and Goal Mine, by Don and Maureen Cahill. We are now pleased to present the second book that is a "must" for the effective advocate - Free and Appropriate Public Education (5th Edition), by Rud and Ann Turnbull. It is the defining legal resource for all special education advocates.

The Turnbull's, who co-founded and co-directed the Beach Center on Families with Disability at the University of Kansas, take the cumbersome legal process that is special education and turn it into a powerful, reader-friendly guide to understanding special education advocacy. The book has three parts which include: an introduction to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); the six principles of the law; and the enforcement of the law. This edition is updated to include the 1997 IDEA amendments.

The first part of the book places the special education struggle in historical context, preparing the reader for the principles at the heart of IDEA. The Turnbulls tell the reader where the law comes from, and why it is needed. This explains its power in the special education process. The reader learns how to make this law work for individual students. A reader who understands why IDEA was needed in the first place will be well armed to advocate for a free, appropriate public education for all students. This historical framework alone makes the book invaluable.

The second part of Free and Appropriate Public Education focuses on the six principles of IDEA: zero reject (including discipline); nondiscriminatory evaluation; appropriate education (including positive behavior support); least restrictive environment (access to general education); due process (including mediation); and parent participation. The Turnbulls leave no stone unturned in detailing what families of children with disabilities have a right to expect from school administrators and teachers. The first-time reader is thoroughly educated about the law and how it relates to children with disabilities. The return reader and practicing advocate is given sophisticated information directly applicable to specific issues. The Turnbulls put each principle into historical perspective as well as the script of practical day-to-day reality.

The book's final section tells parents how to use the law to obtain a truly free appropriate education for children with special needs. They give the reader a straightforward discussion of how IDEA is enforced. The authors give equal emphasis to hardball legal mechanisms and emerging alternative dispute resolution practices. A parent or advocate who understands how the law really works is better able to weigh specific choices for their child.

Free and Appropriate Public Education also includes comprehensive resources. This 400-page hard cover book contains the 1997 IDEA amendments; a glossary; a table of important cases; and extensive excerpts from the three landmark educational rights cases.

This book is ideal for the parent who cannot take advantage of opportunities to attend or participate in special education training or conferences. In addition, it serves as an invaluable resource to those parents and advocates who provide training opportunities or direct advocacy for other parents and families. The book is easy to use to refresh one's understanding of specific concepts or procedures. Finally, Free and Appropriate Public Education constantly reminds readers that IDEA belongs to the families and not to the schools. It is not unreasonable for families to ask that IDEA be followed. The Turnbulls have given families a brief case resource which lets them put reason into practice. We heartily recommend this book and award it the Exceptional Parent Symbol of Excellence.

Free and Appropriate Education, item code LV129ED, can be ordered through the Exceptional Parent Library, telephone (800) 535-1910.