Special Education Process

Special Education Process 

Disability Categories
Does my child have a disability?

Some children need extra assistance in their school career, and this need may be the result of a disability. Not all students who have disabilities need or qualify for special education services. Students qualifying as disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 (IDEA) require "specially designed instruction" which is designed and monitored by a certificated special education staff member. Some students with disabilities do not require specially designed instruction, but do require accommodations in order to access their education (see Section 504).

I suspect my child has a learning disability. What should I do?
If you suspect that your child has a learning disability of any kind, you should contact his/her teacher, school psychologist, counselor, or doctor for further information to determine whether the school can address the child's needs through the pre-referral (problem solving) intervention process.  A request must be made in writing.  

Each school has a Child Care Team process, which is managed by general education personnel to support the success of students in general education classrooms. One of the main purposes of CCT is to identify and attempt interventions in general education classrooms to support students access to general education curriculum and activities and their achievement of district standards
. Only after general education resources have been exhausted is a student from CCT to be referred for a special education evaluation.
When a team refers a student, they are saying that they suspect the student has a disability and needs specially designed instruction. The intent of this pre-referral process is to ensure the team has afforded the student all appropriate interventions appropriate to the general education setting, and to prevent the inappropriate referral of students to special education.




What is a referral?
A referral is a request for evaluation to determine if your child has a disability and may be eligible for special education services. When a referral is made, a specific timeline and process is followed.
Who can make a referral?
Anyone who is involved with the child may make a referral when there is a suspected disability. A referral is usually made by the parent, teacher, school psychologist, counselor or doctor.
Once my child is referred, will my child then be evaluated?
District staff and parents will study existing information and school records, and may talk with others who know the student, including teachers, family, and health care providers. Input about the student at school, at home, and at play creates a more complete picture of the student's strengths and needs. Within 25 school days, the district must determine whether the student should be evaluated for eligibility for special education services. If there is a meeting to consider this decision, your will have an opportunity for meaningful input.  After studying this information within the time limit, the district sends the parent written notice of whether or not an evaluation is needed. If the district recommends an evaluation of the student, the district must get the parent's written consent before the evaluation begins.


Initial Evaluation


Before a student receives an initial evaluation for possible special education services, the parent must be provided with a "Prior Written Notice" and a copy of "Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards". The parent must also give informed, written consent to evaluate the student. The "Prior Written Notice" explains the actions to be taken and will contain:
  •  A description of what the school proposes or refuses to do;
  • An explanation of why the school has made this decision;
  • A description of other options that were considered in making the decision, and the reasons why those options were rejected;

  • A description of each evaluation procedure, test, record, or report that was used as a basis for the action to be taken;
  • A description of what areas of suspected disability will be evaluated;
  • A description of other factors considered in deciding on an action;
  • A statement of parent protections under procedural safeguards;
  • Sources for parents to contact to obtain assistance in understanding their rights .

The "Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards" is a complete explanation of parents' rights and protections for children who receive  special education services. This notice must be provided to the parent(s) upon:

  • Initial referral for evaluation
  • Each notification of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting
  • Reevaluation of the child
  • Registration of a due process complaint
  • Intent to revoke special education services 
Parental Consent
It is the responsibility of the school to obtain informed, written parental consent before conducting the initial evaluation. The school will inform the parent of all types of testing instruments to be used. Parental consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time. If a parent revokes consent, it is not retroactive, and does not negate any action that occurred after the consent was given and before the consent was revoked. If a parent refuses to provide consent, then a school may consider using mediation or due process as an avenue to pursue the evaluation of the student. 



Determining Eligibility for Special Education Services


Who's on the Team?

The evaluation team is made up of educational specialists with knowledge in the area of the child's suspected disability, and includes the parent. These team members include:

  • At least one of the child's general education teachers
  • At least one special education teacher
  • An individual to interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation results
  • The child's parent(s)
  • At the discretion of the school or parent, other persons with knowledge or special expertise about the child

What does the team do?

Based upon the results of the evaluation, the evaluation team must determine if the child has one or more disabilities.

As a result of having one or more disabilities, the evaluation team must determine that the child requires specially designed instruction in order to benefit from the educational program. A child may NOT be determined to be in need of specially designed instruction (Special Education) if the greatest factor is lack of instruction in reading, math or limited English proficiency. Eligibility is determined by:

  1. The presence of a disability;
  2. Adverse educational impact, and;

  3. The need for specially designed instruction.

The Evaluation Report

The evaluation report must include, but is not limited to:

  • A review of current evaluations, including types of tests and the results of those tests.
  • Information provided by the parents, including medical and developmental information and history;
  • Educational history, including the reason for referral, current classroom based assessments and observations by teachers and related service providers;
  • Determination of whether the child's educational problems are related to or resulting primarily from reasons of educational disadvantage;
  • Documentation that the child was assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability including behavior, assistive technology and current vision and hearing status;
  • A comprehensive developmental assessment (for preschool child);
  • A determination of whether the child has a category of disability (as defined by state law)
  • The child's present level of academic performance and current educational needs;
  • A determination of whether the child needs special education and related services;
  • A determination of whether any additions or modifications are needed to allow the child to progress in the general education curriculum, and;
  • Team findings on eligibility determination.

Information for the Parent

The school will provide the following documents to the parent:

  • Prior Written Notice that will document the decisions made by the team.
  • Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards.
  • Copy of the evaluation report, which will include documentation of the eligibility determination.


Individualized Education Plan (IEP)


Once a student has been determined to be eligible for services the IEP team, which includes parent(s), writes an education plan. The student's parent is an important member of this team. This plan contains, at a minimum, a statement of the students present levels of performance, annual goals and short-term objectives, statement of related services or supplementary aids and services, an explanation to the extent the student will and will not participate with typically developing peers, projected dates for beginning services, the location of those services, and how the student's progress will be measured and reported to parents. The IEP is the framework for ensuring that students with disabilities have a free, appropriate public education. The IEP team includes:
  • The parent(s) of the student;

  • At least one general education teacher (or preschool education provider) if the student is or may be participating in the general education environment;

  • At lease one special education teacher of the student

  • A district representative who: is qualified to provide or supervise specially designed instruction; is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum; and is knowledgeable about the availability of district resources.

  • An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results;

  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student including related services personnel as appropriate and at the discretion of the parent or school district/public agency,

  • The student (if appropriate);

  • Transition services participants

Participants can serve in more than one capacity.




Services outlined in the IEP may occur in several different environments for students. However, students with disabilities are to be educated in the least restrictive environment, meaning that students with disabilities should be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent that they are allowed by their disability. The least restrictive environment requirement does not mandate inclusion or mainstreaming but rather focuses on participation in the general education environment with general education peers.

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