The 10 Basic Steps in Special Education (page 2)
Children can have all sorts of difficulties growing up. Sometimes problems are obvious right from the start; and sometimes they don't appear until a child is in school. Some children have trouble learning to read or write. Others have a hard time remembering new information. Still others may have trouble with their behavior. For some children, growing up can be very hard to do!
When a child is having trouble in school, it's important to find out why. The child may have a disability. By law, schools must provide special help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called special education and related services.
There's a lot to know about the process by which children are identified as having a disability and in need of special education and related services. This section of NICHCY's website is devoted to helping you learn about that process.
This brief overview is an excellent place to start. Here, we've distilled the process into 10 basic steps. Once you have the big picture of the process, it's easier to understand the many details under each step. We've indicated throughout this overview where, on our site, you can connect with that more detailed information.
Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.
There are two primary ways in which children are identified as possibly needing special education and related services: the system known as Child Find (which operates in each state), and by referral of a parent or school personnel.
Child Find. Each state is required by IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct what are known as Child Find activities.
When a child is identified by Child Find as possibly having a disability and as needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. Parents can also call the Child Find office and ask that their child be evaluated.
Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal, but it's best to put it in writing.
Parental consent is needed before a child may be evaluated. Under the federal IDEA regulations, evaluation needs to be completed within 60 days after the parent gives consent. However, if a State's IDEA regulations give a different timeline for completion of the evaluation, the State's timeline is applied.
Step 2. Child is evaluated.
Evaluation is an essential early step in the special education process for a child. It's intended to answer these questions:
• Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?
• What are the child’s specific educational needs?
• What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?
By law, the initial evaluation of the child must be "full and individual"—which is to say, focused on that child and that child alone. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability.
The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.
If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.
Step 3. Eligibility is decided.
A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a "child with a disability," as defined by IDEA. If the parents do not agree with the eligibility decision, they may ask for a hearing to challenge the decision.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Dissemination Center.
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