Parents guide for Special Education
What is Special Education?
Special Education is a service provided by school districts for children who have any of the thirteen qualifying disabilities that impact a child’s learning process. Special education is a program funded by the federal government under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All students receiving services under this law are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) (a program reasonably designed for educational benefit), in the least restrictive environment (LRE), from birth to 21 years of age.
How can special education services benefit my child?
Children in this program receive an individualized education plan (IEP). An IEP is a plan that is created with your child’s unique learning needs in mind. IEP’s ensure that students have access to regular education services on their level with necessary support in, as well as, outside of the classroom. Special education also allows any necessary modifications/accommodations to your child’s classroom work.
What are some modifications/accommodations my child may be eligible for special education?
- Additional support for completion of work inside or outside the classroom
- Books on tape
- Copy of the teacher’s notes provided before lecture
- Extra time to complete assignments
- Highlighted material
- Information read to them
- Keyboarding instead of hand writing long papers
- Opportunity to respond orally on assignments and tests
- Reduced number of problems/only assign even or odd problems
- Reduced number of problems on a page (same number of problems but spaced differently)
- Visual aides
- Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
- Counseling services
- Frequent breaks
- Seating near teacher
- Shortened day
- Minimal or no physical activities
- Occupational therapy (OT)
- Orientation and mobility for visually impaired students
- Psychological services
- Physical therapy (PT)
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Related services – These are services that include transportation, developmental, corrective and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.
- School health/medical services
- Social work services
- Speech and audiology services
- Therapeutic recreation
- Transportation parent counseling
- Unlimited access to the bathroom
- Unlimited pass to the water fountain
How do I request these services for my child?
- Put your concerns about your child in writing and ask that the school formally assess your child.
- A team of people from your child’s school (teacher, administrator, counselor and special education representative) will meet to review your request. At this time the school will decide if they see the same needs and will proceed with your request. If they deny your request, they must send to you in writing the reason why.
- If the school agrees with your request, the formal process will begin.
- The school will work with your child using research based interventions for 6 - 12 weeks. If intervention works, then no further action will take place.
- If intervention does not work, then formal testing will begin.
- The school has 90 calendar days from the time consent is signed to test your child, present the findings and create an IEP. The IEP will be created at the annual admission, review and dismissal (ARD) process meeting.
What if I disagree with the schools findings?
- The school must offer to recess the ARD meeting for no more than 10 days; this recess is to gather information that will hopefully help the committee come to an agreement.
- If an agreement is not reached, the school will put in place the IEP they feel is appropriate. The school must give the parent prior written notice before this action takes place. In addition, the school must write a statement in the IEP about the disagreement. You as the parent may write your own statement as well.
- At this time you may ask for:
- Mediation – an informal process where an impartial mediator helps parents and schools reach an agreement. This is at no cost to the parent.
- File a complaint - Complaints may be filed through Texas Education Agency (TEA) stating that the district has violated state or federal special education law or regulation. A complaint must be filed within one year. TEA will investigate and resolve the matter within 60 days. This is a way to handle disputes at the local level.
- Ask for a due process hearing - Due process is handled in the same manner as a trial at the courthouse. Both parties present evidence to a hearing officer who acts like the judge and the jury. The hearing officer is independent of TEA. The timeline from the filing of a complaint for due process is 45 days. If you disagree with the due process hearing officer, you may appeal the decision to the federal district court or state district court. This must be done within 90 days of the hearing officer’s decision.