Ten Basic Special Education Steps

Children with disabilities need special attention. It is the responsibility of parents, guardians, teachers -- and sometimes even peers and friends -- to look out for any indications that a child needs this attention. For instance, if your child is having or causing trouble at school, it is crucial that you find out why. In fact, schools are legally obligated to offer any necessary special help, referred to as Special Education & Related Services in government parlance, to children with disabilities.

To be legally eligible as a child with a disability or disabilities, and therefore qualify for Special Education & Related Services, a formal procedure is followed. We have simplified it here into ten basic steps:

Step #1 - Identifying a Child as Possibly Requiring Special Education & Related Services

Two primary methods for identifying a child being in need of special education and related services are the state-based Child Find system and parental, or school, personnel referral.

Child Find: According to IDEA regulations, all U.S. states are legally obligated to identify and evaluate any children with disabilities within their borders. They accomplish this by conducting what are called Child Find activities. This is then followed by the seeking of permission from parents for evaluation of their child. On the other hand, a parent can also contact their local Child Find office to request for this evaluation.

Referral: School personnel, either on their own volition or after being formally contacted by a parent, can also request that a certain child be evaluated for disabilities. Such an evaluation must be done within 60 days of parental consent, unless the state wills otherwise.

Step #2 - Evaluating the Child

Answers for the following questions are sought here:

  • Does the child have a verifiable disability?
  • What are his or her specific educational needs?
  • What special services will therefore be required to address those needs?

IDEA regulations require that this initial evaluation of a child be full and individual, focusing on that specific child and them alone. In addition, all areas associated with their suspected disability must be assessed. If parents do not agree with the results, they can have their child undergo an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), which may be paid for by the school.

Step #3 - Making the Eligibility Decision

The results of the evaluation are analyzed and assessed by a team of professionals, in collaboration with the child’s parents, to make a decision whether the child qualifies to be categorized as having a disability as per the definitions of IDEA. If the parents disagree with this eligibility decision, they can still request for a hearing to challenge it.

Step #4 - Eligibility is Confirmed

If it is confirmed, according to IDEA definitions, that the child has a disability, then he or she will qualify for Special Education & Related Services. This eligibility confirmation is then followed by a meeting between the parents and a group of school professionals to draft the child’s individualized education program (IEP). This must be done within 30 days of the confirmation.

Step #5 - Scheduling of the IEP Meeting

This is done by the school, where its personnel are required to:

  • notify all participants, including parents;
  • inform parents early enough to enable them to prepare;
  • ensure the meeting is scheduled at a place and time agreeable to all participants;
  • inform parents why, when and where the meeting is to be held;
  • tell the parents who are going to be attending; and finally
  • inform them that they can invite people with special expertise or extra knowledge about their child.

Step #6 - Writing of the IEP

This process involves the full participation of parents, teachers and the child (if necessary), as part of the IEP-drafting team. And if the child’s placement, meaning their location of receiving Special Education & Related Services, is the decision of another group, then the parents must also be participants there. Whichever part of the IEP or placement decision that the parents disagree with, they are free to address those concerns with other IEP team members, the school or their state’s education agency.

Step #7 - Provision of Special Services

It is the responsibility of the school to ensure that the concerned child’s IEP is implemented as specified, with parents, teachers and other carers having access to the IEP draft and required to be aware of their specific roles to play.

Step #8 - Progress Evaluation

The progress of the child with disabilities towards the IEP’s set annual goals is evaluated and their parents regularly notified as frequent as a nondisabled child’s progress would. Another crucial thing to look into is if this progress is sufficient for the child’s annual goals to be achieved.

Step #9 - Reviewing the IEP

The IEP team reviews their IEP at least once per year, or as parents and the school find necessary, and revised as appropriate. In case of any disapprovals, especially from parents, an additional testing, independent evaluation, due process hearing, mediation or complaint filing with the state’s education agency are the other options that can be taken.

Step #10 - Child Reevaluation

A reevaluation of the disability of the child must be conducted at least every three years, or “triennially”. But if there are any conditions warranting this to be done more often, or the parents or teachers request for a reevaluation, then it can be conducted much more frequently.


Image source: flickr.com

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