First, it is important to understand that Special Education services are meant to help your child succeed as a student and as an individual. Hopefully it is no surprise when your child is referred for Special Education Services. This referral can come from you, the teacher or anyone else who works with your child. Once your child is suspected of having a disability or believed to require extra services, a referral is placed.
What is a referral? Paperwork is submitted to a team called the CSE or Committee on Special Education. Generally the team consists of teachers, the school psychologist and other people who work with your child. What you may or may not know, the most valuable member of the CSE is the parent. After all, you know your child best!
Once the referral is received, the student is evaluated. Different members of the CSE meet with your child and evaluate through observations, and various assessments. It is important to note, that this can NOT happen without your consent. Usually, the initial evaluation includes: a physical examination, psychological assessments, social/emotional history, observation of your child in their classroom and any other appropriate assessment. This could also include speech and/or language, behavior evaluation etc.
Once the evaluation has been completed, a CSE meeting will be scheduled. It is important that the parent be present and is aware of their rights. At the CSE meeting, the results of the evaluation will be discussed and recommendations will be made. If you disagree with the results, you have the right to request that an outside agency evaluate your child, at the expense of the school district.
If your child is eligible to receive special education services, the Committee must select a disability category that is most appropriate for your child. Again, if you disagree with the committee, you have the right to seek mediation.
Once your child is deemed eligible to receive services, the committee will be responsible for developing an IEP or Individual Education Plan for your child. When creating your child’s plan, their strengths and needs will be taken into consideration. The IEP will document goals that your child will attempt to meet with the support of special education services. The IEP will also indicate where the services will take place. It is important to note that Special Education services are based on a spectrum that ranges from the least restrictive environment or LRE to the most restrictive environment.
Once the IEP has been implemented, you should receive written progress reports documenting how your child is progressing with their goals. Once a year, the CSE will meet to review the IEP. Every three years, a reevaluation will take place, similar to the initial referral to CSE to determine if your child still requires the support of Special Education services.
Hopefully this has “unpacked” the special education process for you.