How Special Education Works
A 10-Step Guide to the Special Education
Special education is governed by numerous processes and procedures designed
to provide your student with an appropriate educational program. You do not need
to become an expert in all areas of special education to be a good educational
advocate for your student. Having a firm understanding of the basic special
education processes and procedures, however, will help you navigate each step
along the way.
The following is an overview of 10 important steps in the special education
processes that mark the progression of every student’s special education
program. This list is not comprehensive; it serves as a guide to helping you
understand where you might be in the process and what procedures may be
Step 1: Referral
A referral is made for
your student to be evaluated for special education.
If you suspect that
your student may need services, then you can make a referral to the school
district to have your student evaluated for special education. A referral for an
evaluation must be in writing. The district also has a “child find”
responsibility to identify, locate, and evaluate all students within the
district who need special education. Parents, school personnel, school district
staff, or other persons with knowledge about the student may make a referral for
an evaluation as well. Once any referral is made, the district must decide if
your student will be evaluated for special education.
Step 2: Consent to Evaluate
district decides to evaluate your student for special education and obtains your
The school district has 25 school days to decide, with your
input, whether or not to evaluate a student. Once a district decides to evaluate
the student, the district will decide what additional assessment data is needed
to determine if the student is eligible for special education. Before conducting
the initial evaluation, the district must obtain your informed consent.
Step 3: Initial Evaluation
Your student is
evaluated for special education.
After obtaining your informed written
consent, the district may proceed with conducting the initial evaluation. The
evaluation process must be completed within 35 school days after the district
receives your consent. The evaluation must be comprehensive and must address all
areas of a suspected disability, including those areas which may or may not be
directly related to the suspected eligibility category included in the referral.
Step 4: Initial Evaluation Report
student’s eligibility for special education is discussed.
You and a group
of qualified professionals review your student’s initial evaluation report. The
initial evaluation report consists of results from all of the assessments
conducted, the information gathered from reviewing existing records and data
maintained by the district, and any additional information you may have
provided. You and the district's evaluation group meet to discuss the results of
the initial evaluation report and make a determination about your student’s
Step 5: Eligibility
Your student is found
to be eligible for special education services.
If it is determined that
your student has a disability and needs special education services as a result
of that disability, then your student will be eligible for special education.
Your student’s special education and any related services will not start,
however, until you give consent for special education to begin. Once you give
consent, the district will formulate a team to begin working on creating an
Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your student.
Step 6: Creating an Individualized Education Program
An IEP Team meeting is held and an IEP is
Once the student is found to be eligible for special education
services, an IEP Team will meet within 30 days to write an IEP for your student.
You, as a parent or guardian, are included as a member of the IEP Team. The IEP
Team uses the information previously gathered from the initial evaluation to
talk about your student’s needs, write the IEP, and decide upon the appropriate
placement for implementing the IEP.
Step 7: Special Education Begins
student’s IEP is implemented and services begin.
The services identified
in your student's initial IEP should be made available as soon as possible after
the IEP Team develops an IEP. You will receive a copy of the IEP. Each of your
student’s teachers and service providers will also have access to the IEP and
know their specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. These
responsibilities include any of the accommodations, modifications, and supports
identified in your student’s program.
Step 8: Progress Monitoring & Annual IEP
Your student’s progress is measured throughout the year, an
annual IEP meeting is held, and the IEP is updated.
At least once a year,
the IEP Team is required to meet to review your student’s progress and update
the goals and services that make up her/his individualized program. As a member
of the IEP Team, you are invited to participate in the annual IEP Team meeting
and can make suggestions for changes to the IEP in the upcoming year.
Step 9: Reevaluation
Your student is
At least every three years, your student is reevaluated to
determine if s/he still has a disability and continues to need special education
services. A reevaluation may occur sooner, however, if your student’s needs
change to the extent that the most current evaluations do not provide enough
information for the IEP Team to revise the IEP.
Step 10: Transition
A transition plan is
developed and included in your student’s IEP.
By the time your student
turns 16 years old, the IEP must have an appropriate transition plan in place
for when your student will either graduate from high school or exceed the age
requirements for special education. You and your student are invited to
participate in the IEP Team meetings to create this transition plan, and
together, can make suggestions for appropriate post secondary goals and
Find this information at: http://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/Families/HowItWorks.aspx