The special education process determines whether or not your child is eligible for special education services and, if so, what special education services are most appropriate for your child.
There are five basic steps in the special education process: (1) Referral for Assessment; (2) Assessment; (3) The Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting; (4) Determination; and (5) IEP Review.
Step One: Referral for Assessment
A parent, teacher, or other educator requests an evaluation. After the parent consents to the evaluation, the child is evaluated and an IEP meeting is scheduled (generally within 60 days of the referral).
What happens after the referral for assessment has been made?
Step Two: Assessment
An assessment involves gathering information about your child to determine whether your child has a disability and, if he or she is eligible, the nature and extent of special education services that your child may need. Assessments may include individual testing, observation of the child at school, a review of your child’s developmental and family history, interviews with the child and school personnel who work with the child, and review of school records, reports and work samples.
Step Three: The Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting
After your child has been assessed, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting will be held. The IEP meeting must be held at a time and place convenient for both you and the school's representatives. At this meeting, the IEP team will discuss the assessment results and determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. It is very important to attend the IEP meeting, so you will be able to participate in any decisions that will be made about your child’s eligibility for special education services. If your child is eligible, then an IEP will also be developed during the meeting.
Step Four: Determination
If your child is eligible for special education services, the outcome of the IEP Team Meeting should be a complete recommendation of the kinds of special education programs and services he or she will need to be successful in school. You, as the parent, must approve of these recommendations.
At the IEP meeting, you should tell the district representative about any concerns or preferences you have. The team must discuss the special education programs and services available at your child's current or zoned public school and how to ensure that they are sufficient to meet your child's needs.
Generally, your child will remain in his or her current school unless they require a highly specialized program.
Step Five: IEP Review
If your child is receiving special education services, his or her IEP will be reviewed in an IEP meeting at least once a year. In addition, every three years, your child’s IEP will be comprehensively reviewed if the team determined, and documented on the IEP, at the previous annual review that a comprehensive reassessment was not warranted. If needed, your child will be reassessed and his or her IEP reviewed as part of an overall comprehensive reevaluation of your child's progress.