Getting Started With Special Education Services

  • An overview of the special education process is included here. This guide will take parents through each of the steps to help them understand the process.

    Special Education in APWCSD
     

    If you believe that your child requires special education services, it helps to start with asking questions of your child’s teacher.  Talk to your child’s current teacher to find out if there are supports available within the general education setting at the school that he or she already attends. Those kinds of supports might be all your child needs.
     
    Schools offer supports like Academic Intervention Services (AIS), reading remediation programs, and counseling. It may also be possible to adapt your child’s general education program without special education services.

    Some questions you might ask include:

    • What do the grades on my child’s report card mean?  Is he/she doing work that is expected of him/her?  How will I know?
    • What are some math learning activities I can do at home or in the neighborhood?
    • How do I know if my child understands what I am reading to him/her?
    • What types of questions should I ask my child as we read together?
    • How can I help my child if he/she is struggling with math homework?
    • How does my child get along with other students in school?
    • Does my child have any difficulty following directions or doing what is asked of him or her?  What do you do if that happens in class?
    • What have you noticed about how my child learns?
    • Are there any additional services during school or after school that could help my child?  If so, how can we get that extra help for my child?
    • What are some things I can do at home to help my child do his/her best in school?

    You may think your child needs additional support after talking to your child’s teacher and school. In those circumstances, you (or another individual) may refer your child to be evaluated for special education services.  This includes a series of evaluations to determine if your child has a disability. You can make a referral for a special education evaluation at any time.

    The first step is determining if your child has a disability and requires special education services.  You or your school official may start the process with an initial referral, or another individual may make a request for referral.  Once you give permission, your child will be evaluated to determine his or her developmental history and behavior, what he or she knows and how he or she learns, and his or her skills, abilities and areas of need.

    The Initial Referral Process
     
    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and corresponding New York State Regulations have made significant changes with respect to the initial referral process, including the initial referral source. Only specific people may make a referral for an initial evaluation, while different individuals may make something called a “Request for Initial Evaluation.” This new process is outlined below.
     
    The first step in determining if your child has a disability and if he or she requires special education services is to request an evaluation. This initial referral must be in writing and may be made by you or a designated school district official.
     
    Ways for you to request an initial evaluation for your child:
     

    • Send a letter to the principal at your child’s school or to the office of special education requesting an evaluation;
    • Give a written statement to a professional staff member of your child’s school;
    • Ask a school professional to assist you in making a referral.

     Who else can make an initial referral?

    • A school district official, including a principal or intervention team;
    • The commissioner or a public agency official who is responsible for the education of your child;
    • An official of an education program affiliated with a child-care institution with CSE responsibility.

     
    Who can make a request for initial referral?
    A professional staff member of the school district in which your child resides or the public or private school your child legally attends or is eligible to attend;

    • A licensed physician;
    • A judicial officer;
    • A professional staff member of a public agency with responsibility for welfare, health or education of the child;
    • A student who is 18 years of age or older, or an emancipated minor.

     
     After the request for initial referral has been made:
     
    Within 10 school days, the school will either:

    • Initiate the referral process by sending you a Notice of Referral Letter; or
    • Provide you with a copy of the request for referral, inform you that you may refer your child yourself, offer you an opportunity to discuss the request for referral and discuss the availability of appropriate general education support services for your child. The Notice of Request for Initial Referral, which details the process, will be sent to you.

     
    What’s next? When an initial referral has been made:
     
    Once a referral has been made, you will be sent a Notice of Referral Letter, which:

    • Explains your rights as a parent;
    • Provides the name and telephone number of a person to call if you have any questions; and
    • Asks for you to meet with the school social worker at a “social history interview.” During that meeting, all of your rights will be explained to you in your preferred language or mode of communication, with the help of a translator/ interpreter, if necessary.

     
    If your child has never received special education services, you will be asked to sign a Consent for Initial Evaluation form.  This gives the district permission to conduct assessments of your child’s strengths and needs.
     
    Even if you made the written referral yourself, you must still consent to the evaluations in order for the process to begin.
     
    If you choose not to sign consent and give permission for evaluation for an initial referral, your child will not be evaluated.
     
    What Will the Initial Evaluation Include?
     
    An initial evaluation to determine if your child has a disability must include:

    • A comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation that looks at what your child knows and how he or she learns;
    • A social history of your child’s developmental and family history, often from birth to present;
    • An observation of your child in his or her current educational setting;
    • Other tests that may be appropriate for your child, such as speech, language or functional behavior assessments;
    • Assessments that include a review of school records, teacher assessments, and parent and student interviews to determine vocational skills and interest for students age 12 and older.

    The evaluations will determine your child’s skills, abilities and areas of need that affect his or her school performance, including involvement in the general education curriculum. You will also be asked to provide the school or office of special education with any recent physical examination reports or relevant medical documentation of your child.