The Special Education Process

Important Elements of the Special Education Process

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, Public Law 108-446), definesspecial education as "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability." A child with a disability as defined by IDEA means "a child with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and who by reason thereof, needs special education and related services." The "Special Education Guidelines For Staff and Parents Flowchart" summarizes this process. The term child with a disabilityfor “a child aged 3 through 9 (or any subset of that age range, including ages 3 through 5), may, at the discretion of the State and the local educational agency, include a child experiencing developmental delays, as defined by the State and as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in 1 or more of the following areas: physical development; cognitive development; communication development; social or emotional development; or adaptive development; and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.”

    The definition of the term special education is significant to parents for two reasons. First, a child may have a disability but not fit the definition as it is used for educational purposes; therefore, he or she would not be covered under IDEA. Second, the definition ofrelated services is related to the definition of special education. A related service is a service designed to enable a student to benefit from special education instruction and general education curriculum (e.g., Speech and Language, Nursing Services, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Counseling). Therefore, if a child does not need special education there can be no related service(s).

Do You Need Special Education Services?

  • How do the parents and the school determine if a student needs special education services and which services would be appropriate to meet the student’s unique needs?

    The summary on the following pages describes the identification, referral, evaluation, eligibility, and Individualized Education Program process, Annual Review, Reevaluation.

    Telephone numbers are available at the District’s Website:

    • Go to "School Websites" to determine the school of interest.
    • Select "School Profiles" from the left side navigation and then click on the school of interest for further information.

A Brief Overview of the Special Education Process

  • Identification

    Recognition on the part of a parent, a teacher, or another person that a child may have special learning needs.

    • Primary contact person for children under 3: Birth to Three @ 253-874-5445
    • Primary contact person for preschool-age children: Child Find @ 253-945-2093.
    • Primary contact person for school-age children: Principal of the school.

    Referral

    Informing a school or agency that a student may have special learning needs.

    A parent, teacher, or other appropriate staff member may refer a student. To refer a child, request a Special Education referral form from the school, complete it, and return it to the school with any supporting documentation, e.g., outside evaluations that you may have. Children do not have to be in public school to be referred. The school staff must consider whether to evaluate within 25 school days.

    • Primary contact person for children under 3: Birth to Three @ 253-874-5445
    • Primary contact person for preschool-age children: Child Find @ 253-945-2093.
    • Primary contact person for school-age children: Principal of the school.

    Evaluation:

    The process of collecting and analyzing information and assessments such as psychological, medical, sociocultural, educational, and other appropriate information about a child, which are used to determine if the student has a condition which may have an impact on him or her educationally. Evaluation must be completed within 35 school days from parent’s written consent to evaluate.

    Eligibility:

    The process by which a committee of professional staff members and the parents consider the individual needs of a student and determine whether the student is eligible for special education and related services.

    Eligibility committees meet at the child’s school. If the student is found eligible for special education services, parents and school staff members meet within 30 calendar days to develop an individualized education program (IEP).

    Primary contact person

    School Psychologist, contact the school psychologist at your neighborhood school.

Individualized Education Program

  • The procedure by which parents and school staff members develop a written plan called the Individualized Education Program (IEP) describing a student’s special learning needs and the special education services to be provided to meet those needs. The IEP team consists of parents; the student as appropriate; the student’s teacher; a general education teacher if the student participates or may participate in general education classes; a representative of the school system who is qualified to provide or supervise special education services; and others as requested. IDEA requires that an IEP contain the following:

    • A description of the student’s present level of educational performance, as well as any concerns of the parents.
    • A statement of annual goals, which may also include short-term instructional objectives.
    • A statement of the specific special education services to be provided to the student.
    • A statement concerning the extent to which the student will participate in general education activities.
    • The date when special services will begin and how long the services will last.
    • Information about how and when the student’s progress toward IEP goals will be evaluated.
    • A list of needed curriculum, testing, and classroom accommodations and modifications.
    • A statement concerning the extent to which a student will participate in the district-wide and statewide assessment programs and accommodations that a student will need during testing. If the student will not participate in the assessments, the IEP must indicate how the student will be assessed.
    • Parent signature required for services to begin, but is not required for continued services.
    • A statement of needed transition services for 16 years of age or older.

    Primary contact person: Special Education Teacher. To locate the Special Education teacher for your child, utilize the contact telephone numbers for all schools.

    Annual Review

    A scheduled meeting of school staff members and parents to develop, review, and revise the IEP of a student receiving special education services.

    Primary contact person: Special Education Teacher. To locate the Special Education teacher for your child, utilize the contact telephone numbers for all schools.

    Reevaluation

    A review to decide if additional and/or updated information is needed to determine individual needs and continued eligibility for special education and related services. A reevaluation is required every three years or more frequently if conditions warrant or upon request by the parent(s).

    Primary contact person: School Psychologist. To locate the school psychologist for your child, utilize the contact telephone numbers for all schools.