Questions Often Asked by Parents About Special Education Services
I think my child may need special help in school. What do I do?
Begin by finding out more about special services and programs for students in your school system. Also find out more about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law gives eligible children with disabilities the right to receive special services and assistance in school. These services are known as special education and related services. They can be important in helping your child at school.
To learn more about special education, keep reading. This Briefing Paper will also help you learn how you and the school can work together to help your child.
What is special education?
Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities. This is done at no cost to the parents. Special education can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals or institutions, or in other settings.
Over 5 million children ages 6 through 21 receive special education and related services each year in the United States. Each of these children receives instruction that is specially designed:
- to meet the child’s unique needs (that result from having a disability); and
- to help the child learn the information and skills that other children are learning.
This definition of special education comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Who is eligible for special education?
Certain children with disabilities are eligible for special education and related services. The IDEA provides a definition of a “child with a disability.” This law lists 13 different disability categories under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. These categories are listed in this below.
According to the IDEA, the disability must affect the child’s educational performance. The question of eligibility, then, comes down to a question of whether the child has a disability that fits in one of IDEA’s 13 categories and whether that disability affects how the child does in school. That is, the disability must cause the child to need special education and related services.
IDEA’s Categories of Disability
- Hearing impairment
- Mental retardation
- Multiple disabilities
- Orthopedic impairment
- Other health impairment
- Serious emotional
- Specific learning disability
- Speech or language
- Traumatic brain injury
- Visual impairment,
I. Your Child's Evaluation
How do I find out if my child is eligible for special education?
The first step is to find out if your child has a disability. To do this, ask the school to evaluate your child. Call or write the Director of Special Education or the principal of your child’s school. Say that you think your child has a disability and needs special education help. Ask the school to evaluate your child as soon as possible.
The public school may also think your child needs special help, because he or she may have a disability. If so, then the school must evaluate your child at no cost to you.
However, the school does not have to evaluate your child just because you have asked. The school may not think your child has a disability or needs special education. In this case, the school may refuse to evaluate your child. It must let you know this decision in writing, as well as why it has refused.
If the school refuses to evaluate your child, there are two things you can do immediately:
- Ask the school system for information about its special education policies, as well as parent rights to disagree with decisions made by the school system. These materials should describe the steps parents can take to challenge a school system’s decision.
- Get in touch with your state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) center. The PTI is an excellent resource for parents to learn more about special education, their rights and responsibilities, and the law. The PTI can tell you what steps to take next to find help for your child. Call NICHCY to find out how to get in touch with your PTI, or see our State Resource Sheet for your state. The PTI is listed there.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory