WHAT IS SPECIAL EDUCATION?
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.
HOW IS ELIGIBILITY DETERMINED?
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.
WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLAN (IEP) ?
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.
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:
Sample American Diabetes Association 504 Plan here.
Sample Epilepsy Foundation 504 Plan here.