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General Information about Disabilities (page 4)

— National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities
Updated on Jan 16, 2009

Finding Out More About Disabilities

IDEA’s definitions of disability terms help states, schools, service providers, and parents decide if a child is eligible for early intervention or special education and related services. Beyond these definitions, there is a great deal of information available about specific disabilities, including disabilities not listed in IDEA. NICHCY would be pleased to help you find that information, beginning with:

  • our disability fact sheets and other publications on the disabilities listed in IDEA;
  • contact information for many organizations that focus their work on a particular disability. These groups have a lot of information to share.

More About Services

Special services are available to eligible children with disabilities and can do much to help children develop and learn. For infants and toddlers aged birth through two, services are provided through an early intervention system. This system may be run by the Health Department in the state, or another department such as Education. If you are a parent and you would like to find out more about early intervention in your state, including how to have your child evaluated at no cost to you, try any of these suggestions:

  • ask your child's pediatrician to put you in touch with the early intervention system in your community or region;
  • contact the Pediatrics branch in a local hospital and ask where you should call to find out about early intervention services in your area;
  • call NICHCY and ask for the contact information for early intervention in your state. The state office will refer you to the contact person or agency in your area.

For children and youth ages 3 through 21, special education and related services are provided through the public school system. Probably the best way to find out about these services is to call your local public school. The school should be able to tell you about special education policies in your area or refer you to a district or county office for this information. If you are a parent who thinks your child may need special education and related services, be sure to ask how to have your child evaluated under IDEA for eligibility. Often there are materials available to tell parents and others more about local and state policies for special education and related services.

There is a lot to know about early intervention, about special education and related services, and about the rights of children with disabilities under the IDEA, our nation's special education law. NICHCY offers many publications, all of which are available on our Web site or by contacting us directly. We can also tell you about materials available from other groups.

Other Sources of Information for Parents

There are many sources of information about services for children with disabilities. Within your community, you may wish to contact:

  • the Child Find Coordinator for your district or county (IDEA requires that states conduct Child Find activities to identify, locate, and evaluate infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities aged birth through 21);
  • the principal of your child's school; or
  • the Special Education Director of your child's school district or local school.

Any of these individuals should be able to answer specific questions about how to obtain special education and related services, or early intervention services, for your child.

In addition, every state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center, which is an excellent source of information. The PTI can:

  • help you learn about early intervention and special education services;
  • tell you about what the IDEA requires;
  • connect you with disability groups and parent groups in the community or state; and
  • much, much more!

To find out how to contact your state’s PTI, look at the NICHCY State Resource Sheet for your state (available on our Web site or by contacting us directly). You'll find the PTI listed there, as well as many other information resources, such as community parent resource centers, disability-specific organizations, and state agencies serving children with disabilities.

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