Explanation of the Special Education Process Summary

This video provides a basic overview of how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) works. If a child is perceived as having a disability, how do you access the IDEA system? The process is broken down into ten steps.

Step 1: The child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services

If a parent, teacher, doctor, or some other person close to the child suspects that the child may need special education services, they can help initiate a “Child Find” through a referral. The state government has a duty to identify, locate, and evaluate all children in need of special education services as early as possible, and they do so through “Child Find” activities. This involves screenings to find hearing, visual, or developmental issues in screened children.

Step 2: The child is evaluated

Within 60 days of being identified as possibly having a disability, the child is evaluated by the school district and/or state. The school district/state assesses all the areas related to a suspected disability to see if the child has a disability. If the school district/state determines that the child does not have disability and the parent disagrees, then they (the parent) may request an independent evaluation, conducted by a third-party organization. The school must take this evaluation under consideration, but they do not necessarily have to follow it.

3. Eligibility is decided

Once the child has been evaluated, an MDT (Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team) reviews the evaluation results and determines whether the child is eligible for services as defined by the criteria of the IDEA. If the parent disagrees with the MDT’s results, they can again request an independent evaluation.

4. Child is found eligible for services

If the child is found eligible for services, then an IEP (Individualized Education Program) team must meet to write an IEP for the child.  The IEP is simply an educational plan for children with disabilities that allows the child to access an appropriate education.

5. IEP Meeting is Scheduled

A notice from the school to the parents is sent out, discussing when, where, and why the meeting is taking place, making sure that the parents (and any people the parents choose to invite) can attend, and that the meeting is held somewhere agreeable.  The notice will also include a list of all the individuals attending the meeting.

6. IEP Meeting is Held, and the IEP is Written

The IEP members, including the child’s parents, conduct the IEP meeting, discussing what services the child will receive. The child receives services as soon as possible after the meeting, after the parents give their consent.

If the parents do not consent to the IEP, they can work out an agreement with the rest of the IEP team or school,  file a complaint with the state education agency, or request a due process hearing.

7. Services are Provided

The school, along with the child’s parents, makes sure that the child’s IEP is being carried out as written. The child’s teachers and service providers should each know their specific roles and responsibilities, including any special accommodations they may need to make for the child.

8. Progress is Measured and Reported to Parents

The IEP team provides regular updates to parents on how the child is progressing toward the annual goals set forth in the IEP, and whether the child can achieve those goals by the end of the year.

9. IEP is Reviewed

The IEP Team reviews the IEP at least once a year, or if the parents or school ask for a review, revising the IEP if necessary. Parents must be a part of these meetings, and can make suggestions, and agree or disagree with the IEP’s goals or placement.

10. Child is Reevaluated

The child should be reevaluated  every three years (the evaluation is often called a “triennial”), unless the parents and school agree that a reevaluation is not necessary. The reevaluation determines if the child continues to be a “child with a disability”, as defined by the IDEA. If conditions require or if a parent or teacher ask for a new evaluation, the child can be evaluated more often.

These 10 steps are a basic overview of the IDEA process.  If you, as a parent, want to learn more about a specific section simply click on that section in the menu and more detail is provided.

Legal Aid of Nebraska