Special Education FAQs



Special education is a service, not a place.  Special education service provides specialized instruction to meet the individual needs of the student, after a student has been found eligible for special education services.  The goal is to decrease deficits and increase independence.


A student can be referred for an evaluation to determine special education eligibility by a parent, teacher, or school personnel. The request must be done in writing and consent must be given to begin the evaluation process.  The evaluation process has a timeline of 60 days. After the 60 days, an IEP team meeting will be held to advise if the student is eligible for special education services.  If a student is found eligible, the school system has an additional 30 days to develop an IEP.  If the student is not found eligible for special education services, the student may be eligible for a 504 plan which will provide accommodations for the student to access the general education curriculum, not specialized instruction.


An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a legal document that lists a student with a disability academic strengths, needs, related services, goals and objectives, supplementary aids and services, and the environment where the education services will take place, known as the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), necessary to receive specialized instruction.  Students must be assessed in ALL suspected areas of disability.

Parents should receive quarterly progress reports on IEP goals and objectives around the same time the student receives a report card.  Parents can request an IEP meeting at any time but should have at least one IEP meeting annually to review the student's progress.

Kennedy Krieger Project HEAL sample letters can be accessed  here.

504 PLAN

Section 504 is a Civil Right and is a part of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This plan provides equal access to students with disabilities. Secondly, Section 504 provides accommodations and modifications to students that substantially limits a major life activity.   Section 504 is applicable in the elementary, middle, and high school environments and colleges.

Sample accommodation list:

  • Highlighted textbooks
  • Extended time on tests or assignments
  • Peer assistance with note taking
  • Frequent feedback
  • Extra set of textbooks for home use
  • Computer aided instruction
  • Enlarged print
  • Positive reinforcements
  • Behavior intervention plans
  • Rearranging class schedules
  • Visual aids
  • Preferred seating assignments
  • Taping lectures
  • Oral tests
  • Individual contracts

Sample American Diabetes Association 504 Plan here.

Sample Epilepsy Foundation 504 Plan here.

Things to Remember About an IEP Meeting

  • An IEP meeting notice is generated 10-days prior to the IEP meeting, unless the 10-day meeting notice waiver is signed.
  • Pay close attention to the purpose of the IEP meeting listed on the IEP meeting notice.  If incorrect, request a correction in writing.
  • An IEP Meeting can be requested at any time.  It's important to remember that providers are not available to the student if they are always in an IEP meeting.  Make sure the benefit outweighs negative impact.
  • IEP meetings must occur at least once a year, typically known as the Annual Review.
  • Re-evaluation should occur at least every 3 years, unless parents and the school agree that a re-evaluation is not warranted.
  • IEP meetings can be recorded with prior notice to the school district.
  • You can bring people with you to the meeting.
  • IEP drafts, reports, and all documents that will be discussed are required to be sent home 5 days prior to the IEP meeting.
  • After the IEP meeting is over, the Prior Written Notice (PWN), should be generated with an amended copy of the IEP, if changes were made, at no cost.
  • Make sure that you monitor the student's progress by receiving the quarterly report of IEP goals and objectives that generally accompanies the student's report card.