All students, birth to 21 years old may be eligible for specially designed special education services. Students qualify under guidelines established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or, IDEA.
School districts must locate, identify and evaluate all resident children with suspected or established disabilities. This is called Child Find.
When a student is referred for special education an evaluation may be recommended. All referrals start at the neighborhood school. Trained staff, which might include a school psychologist, speech clinician, testing specialist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, autism consultant or behavior specialist, will complete observations, conduct diagnostic evaluations and gather information from a variety of sources. All initial evaluations begin with signed parental consent and knowledge from the parent/guardian. Parent/Guardian input is encouraged at all stages of the evaluation, eligibility, IEP development and placement decision.
Section 504 is a civil rights law designed to protect individuals with disabilities. It’s intended to allow students supports or accommodations necessary for them to access their education. A Section 504 Plan is developed, much like an IEP, but without specially designed instruction. Generally, most students on a Section 504 plan are able to fully participate in general education.
Typically, an IEP (individual education plan) is designed for students with disabilities whose disability prevent them from accessing general education without specific interventions, such as specially designed instruction, related services and supplementary aids and services.