Special Education Basics
WHAT IS SPECIAL EDUCATION?
Special Education services are provided to students with disabilities which impact their ability to learn. Eligible students are provided a free and appropriate educational program in the least restrictive environment. Services are available to identified individuals from age three until a student’s twenty-second birthday who exhibit one or more of the following disabilities:
- Communication Impairment
- Developmental Delay
- Health Impairment
- Intellectual Impairment
- Neurological Impairment
- Physical Impairment
- Sensory Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
Presence of a disability alone does not mean that a student is eligible for special education services. The team will also consider if the disability impacts the students ability to make effective progress. Identification of a disability is not a medical diagnosis, but rather it is an acknowledgement that the student’s characteristics are consistent with those in the definition.
HOW WILL MY CHILD BE REFERRED FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION?
Most referrals for special education are made because a real concern exists that the student has a disability that interferes with the student’s ability to participate effectively in the curriculum. Special Education interventions are designed to ensure that disabled students have the same education opportunities as their non-disabled peers.
Depending on a student’s age, referrals can be made from Early Intervention, from the school based Intervention Team, or by the parents.
HOW ARE STUDENTS ASSESSED TO DETERMINE SPECIAL EDUCATION ELIGIBILITY?
Students are assessed in the area of suspected need. Parent input and a written narrative from the classroom teachers are also integral parts of this assessment.
HOW IS ELIGIBILITY DETERMINED?
A team meeting will be scheduled within 30 – 45 school days of receipt of signed consent. At this meeting the team will review the results of all completed assessments and consider input from all team members. At that time the team will consider the following questions:
1. Is there evidence of a disability?
2. Is the student making effective progress?
3. Is the lack of progress a result of the student’s disability?
4. Does the student require specially designed instruction in order to make effective progress in school or does the student require related services in order to access the general curriculum?
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS ELIGIBLE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES?
If the team determines that the student requires special education services in order to access the general education curriculum then the team will develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) which will be designed to meet the unique needs of the student. IEPs can call for specially designed instruction and/or related services, designed to provide the student with instruction in skills needed to access the curriculum.
This brochure, published jointly by The Federation for Children w ith Special Needs and the Massachusetts Department of Education, was created to guide parents through the special education process and to educate parents so they can effectively work with their local school districts.
The Parent's Notice of Procedural Safeguards provides a review of the state and federal rules that school districts must follow when determining special education eligibility and designing what services the student will need. These laws provide detailed procedures and are designed to ensure that students receive appropriate educational services.