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Special Education Process

Is your child Eligible for Special Education Services? When parents or educators notice that a child might need additional support, they can refer the child for possible eligibility for special education. This page offers specific resources to help you through the beginning steps of the Special Education Process.
  • Referral ⁄ Evaluation ⁄ Eligibility
  • Individualized Education Program ⁄ Individual Family Service Plan - The Individualized Education Program (IEP) describes the special education and related services designed to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities. Parents, school personnel, and often the student receiving special education services develop the IEP jointly. This page provides resources to help develop an effective and appropriate IEP.
  • Instruction & Monitoring - Once a student has an IEP, instruction can begin. This page provides information and resources to help you monitor your child's instruction and progress to ensure that the instructional plans outlined in the IEP are followed.
You may also want to visit the FAQ about Special Education.
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Showing Results 1 - 50 of 154
Description: The Federal and State definition of special education and specially designed instruction are: "Special education" means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent(s), to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in a classroom, in the home, in hospitals, in institutions, and in other settings and instruction in physical education. The term includes each of the following if it meets the requirements of the definition of special education:...
Description: The purpose of the Return to School Roadmap IDEA guidance documents, which focus on school reopening efforts, is to support the full implementation of IDEA requirements. The documents also serve to clarify that, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the mode of instruction, children with disabilities are entitled to FAPE, and infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families to appropriate IDEA Part C services. The Department recognizes that some parents may have specific health and...
Description: This is the first one-pager in the Critical Decision Points One-Pager Library. This one-pager provides families with a quick reference guide that explain the differences between Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans.
Description: This includes recordings of webinar presentations and accompanying materials on a range of topics sponsored by Formed Families Forward (FFF) including: Back to School Improving Organization and Study Skills Screen-Savvy Parenting Collaborative Problem Solving with Agency Partners Special Education Eligibility And many more  
Description: The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for schools in meeting the needs of all children and students in early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. These challenges will continue as schools and public agencies seek to ensure support and equity for children and students experiencing the long-term adverse health effects of COVID-19, commonly referred to as long COVID.   This resource is issued jointly by the U.S. Department of...
Description: The Translating Evidence to Support Transitions (TEST) project has created a series of practice guides to increase the use and adoption of 3 research-informed practices for the transition planning of high school students with emotional behavioral disturbance (EBD) who receive special education services: student-led IEP meetings, community agency representation at IEP meetings, and concentrations of CTE coursework along career pathways. Supporting Student-Led Transition Planning for Students with...
Description: Over the past year, many students have experienced entirely virtual and remote learning and many—especially students with disabilities—will need additional support, time, and teaching to get the high quality education they deserve. Students have missed out on opportunities to learn and develop during the pandemic. In response, the federal government is providing billions of dollars to address “instructional loss”. While states, districts, and schools pilot new approaches...
Description: What are the keys to successful, student-centered IEPs? It starts with strong collaboration and communication among the entire team—administrators, teachers, parents and caregivers, service providers, and students. This team must also have access to accurate, up-to-date performance data throughout the IEP cycle. This informative infographic provides a quick reference to guide team members through each stage  
Description: Limitations of Applied Studies Diploma: Not equivalent to a standard diploma, Difficult to change to other diploma options once pursued, May not qualify a child for higher education, federal financial aid and some employment opportunities, Eligible for FAPE through the age of 22. Available only for children with disabilities: Complete the requirements of their IEP, Do not meet requirements for Standard or Advanced Studies Diploma.
Description: Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities, the VDOE’s widely utilized curriculum which assists families of students with disabilities with accessing the knowledge necessary to be full partners through the IEP process. VDOE's Coordinator of Family Engagement, Tracy Lee, has recorded five video modules for families to access at home.
Description: The purpose of these guidelines is to provide resources and suggestions to enhance the provision of services to students who are deaf and hard of hearing in order to support their educational goals. These guidelines are written for special and general education administrators, teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing (referred to by Virginia teacher licensure regulations as HI teachers and generally referred to as teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing-TODHH), general educators,...
Description: The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant learning disruption. School divisions had to make decisions about closures, types of instruction (virtual instruction, hybrid instruction, in-person). Students with disabilities may need additional services and supports to regain skills lost as a result of decreased instructional time, lack of access to modifications, accommodations, or technology, etc. Even though school systems are not at fault for pandemic disruptions, students with disabilities are...
Description: This module offers an overview of assistive technology (AT) with a focus on students with high-incidence disabilities such as learning disabilities and ADHD. It explores the consideration process, implementation, and evaluation of AT for these students (est. completion time: 2.5 hours).
Description: This webinar will introduce participants to the fundamental concepts of Self-Determination for students with autism and related disabilities. We will discuss how to teach these concepts, Power-Standards for IEP goals, how to include students in the IEP process, and other strategies for supporting students with developing their self-determination skills. The presenter will be accompanied by student members of a self-determination club. Self-advocates are encouraged to participate.
Description: OSEP hosted a three-part webinar series on Continuity of Learning and Return to School during COVID-19. This series showcased ready-to-use resources, tools, and practices from OSEP partners to support the educational, developmental, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through remote and distance learning. Below you will find the archived webinars, featured resources, and additional tools and information to help educators, parents and...
Description: How to Support Students in Virtual IEP Meetings (District Administration) Nine ways to help students with disabilities to feel comfortable and meaningfully participate in IEP meetings held remotely this fall. Send documents home for student and parent to review. Seek information before the meeting Ensure all participants use their camera. And more... Bringing Student Voice Into IEP Conversation (Edutopia) One specific area of concern and focus is students with individualized education programs,...
Description: Considerations for COVID Recovery Services for Students with Disabilities (Virginia Department of Education, VDOE) Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets (A Collaborative Effort Across OSEP-Funded Projects) Virtual Meetings: Strategies, Tips and Resources (The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, CADRE) Resources for Families and Students (Progress Center: Promoting Progress for Students with Disabilities) IEP Accommodations During Distance Learning (Understood.org) Virtual...
Description: The coronavirus pandemic is bringing new challenges to special education and distance learning. One of the biggest challenges is how to implement accommodations for students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). To make accommodations work in an online setting, you’ll need some innovative thinking and an understanding of the tools available to you and your students. Take a look at the charts below for some examples of how commonly used accommodations can transfer to a virtual...
Description: As we get this new school year underway in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Education's (VDOE's) resource page for families is continually being updated.  Please check back often for the most up-to-date information. This page includes: Family Resources Parent Guide Youth in Foster Care during School Closures due to COVID-19 Military Families Families of Students with Disabilities Guidance from the Department of Special Education & Student Services Virtual IEP Meeting Tip...
Description: This August, the Autism Society of America is dedicated to providing the autism community with the valuable resources necessary for the ever-changing landscape of back to school during COVID-19. Our goal is to provide resources to help autistic individuals and families as they navigate the “New Normal” of education during the COVID-19 crisis this summer. They have compiled a digital toolkit of resources, information, referrals, and support to help autistic individuals and their...
Description: Project SUCCESS provides current, research-based resources and professional development related to content standards, instructional design, and student outcomes and is specifically designed to meet the needs of students with significant intellectual disabilities. We are building local capacity to ensure that students with significant intellectual disabilities achieve increasingly higher academic outcomes and leave high school ready for post-secondary options. Project SUCCESS is a member of the...
Description: Family participation is an essential feature of the development and implementation of high-quality educational programming for students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that families, and students when appropriate, participate in the development, monitoring, and the implementation of individualized education program (IEP). Although this participation is a legal requirement, collaborative partnerships between families and school personnel also...
Description: This document was developed to provide support to school administrators and directors of special education as they plan for return to school, special educators and parents who will be participating in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, and for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and families that may be navigating a dispute. This document highlights information related to compliance, documentation and progress monitoring, and IEP Team considerations that are necessary in order to...
Description: Circumstances may prohibit participants from attending special education meetings in person. In these situations, technology allows one or all of the individuals to participate through the Internet or telephone. Many types of meetings can occur virtually, including IEP meetings, mediations, resolution sessions, and due process hearings. While each of these types of meetings is unique, virtual meetings share common traits and considerations. Here we have collected resources, tips and...
Description: The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) cares about the well-being of both you and your child, especially as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all in this together and our first priority is to keep our families and ourselves safe by seeking out meaningful supports. We should make every effort to stay positive and patient with one another and be compassionate in the understanding that everyone--administrators, teachers, students, and families--are going through this together. Please...
Description: This resource was developed in response to requests from state and local educational agencies and parents about how to hold and participate in virtual individualized education program (IEP) meetings. While intended to meet a need during the current COVID-19 pandemic, we hope the content will have broader application. Contents: A Collaborative Effort Across OSEP-Funded Projects Virtual IEP Meetings: Technology Tips for All Participants Hosting Virtual IEP Meetings: Tips for Success Common...
Description: We are committed to reaching all families, including traditionally underserved families who face additional obstacles in accessing special education and disability services in Virginia. We strive to provide parents with the tools, information, and resources needed to effectively navigate special education and become their child’s best advocate.
Description: The K-12 Inclusive Practices Guide is an informational resource to support school divisions and parents looking to improve outcomes for students with disabilities by meeting their needs to the maximum extent possible in general education setting.
Description: It is the responsibility of the IEP team to consider the need for assistive technology devices or services. The consideration process is a short discussion among team members to determine if the use of low tech or high tech supports will assist the student in making academic progress. The IEP team should document the consideration process.
Description: Parents and caregivers have certain goals in mind when their children go to school. Regardless of whether children have disabilities or not, all parents want them to learn, explore, and experience as much as they possibly can. Parents strive for their children to complete their public education, obtain a diploma, and be fully prepared to move on toward their chosen path, whether that is immediate employment, higher education, or something else. In order for your child to achieve these goals,...
Description: What is it? This is a guide on how to aid students with emotional or behavioral disturbances (EBD) to lead their Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meetings during high school. For the purposes of this manual, a student-led IEP is an IEP where a student with an EBD holds a leadership role during the IEP meeting, and actively participates in the writing, creation, and implementation of the IEP, including its transition component. This guide will outline steps and activities needed to...
Description: What is it? This is a guide about how to include Career and Technical Education (CTE) into the transition plans of high school students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders (EBD). It can be used as a roadmap and reference for steps to take and activities to engage in when planning for and incorporating CTE courses into the transition component of Individualized Education Plans (IEP). This document brings together existing tools and creates a continuum for how to braid them together into a...
Description: The purpose of this discussion guide is to help IEP teams make informed decisions about whether intervener services are appropriate for a particular student.    Why Intervener Services May Be Needed Students who are deaf-blind have absent, partial, or distorted vision and hearing. Deaf-blindness severely limits access to visual and auditory information that forms the basis for learning and communication and creates challenges for educational systems mandated to provide a free and...
Description: A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals, and maybe even a new school! In order to help you and your child with special needs be as successful as you can be, we’ve put together a list of eight helpful back-to-school tips that we hope will make the transition into a new school year a little easier for you and your child. 1. Organize all that paperwork. In the world of special education, there are lots of meetings, paperwork, and documentation to keep track of. Try to...
Description: Evaluation is an essential beginning step in the special education process for a child with a disability. Before a child can receive special education and related services for the first time, a full and individual initial evaluation of the child must be conducted to see if the child has a disability and is eligible for special education. Informed parent consent must be obtained before this evaluation may be conducted.
Description: Where will a student with a disability receive his or her special education and related services? IDEA requires placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for each child, a setting that is based on the child’s IEP. Use the options and paths below to find out more about: who decides placement; how they decide it; what LRE is and why it’s a foundation element in IDEA and in deciding a child’s placement; and how placement can be affected if a child...
Description: The nation’s special education law is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. As part of making special education and related services available to children with disabilities in the public schools, IDEA defines the term “child with a disability.” That definition includes specific disability terms, which are also defined by IDEA, as this webpage describes. The IDEA’s disability terms and definitions guide how States in their own turn define...
Description: Title |  Building the Legacy for Our Youngest Children with Disabilities: A Training Curriculum on Part C of IDEA 2004 By Whom? | This training curriculum was produced by NICHCY at the request of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. The Center for Parent Information and Resources is pleased to house this curriculum and to make it continuously available. For Whom? |  The curriculum is intended to help all those involved with...
Description: Wherever you work, children come to you with gifts, curiosity, challenges, and needs.  They are small wonders, to be sure, and as full of diversity as society itself. And because disability is a natural part of life, it’s also likely that some of your little ones may have a disability or a developmental delay that can impact their learning and growth. As a child care provider or preschool teacher, you may even be among the first to notice a child’s difficulties or...
Description: The birth of a child is an exciting, life-changing event. A beautiful new baby comes to your house, family, and neighborhood. It is a time for celebration. But what happens when this new child has a disability? What if there are health problems? What if, as time goes by, it seems as if the child isn’t learning and progressing as quickly or easily as other children? What do you do? CPIR offers a suite of resource pages that can help you find answers and people who can...
Description: In drafting the provisions of IDEA, our nation’s special education law, Congress clearly contemplated that, at times, there would be disagreements between parents of children with disabilities and the school districts providing special education and related services to their children. While it is expected that parents and school personnel will work in partnership to ensure children with disabilities are provided appropriate services, there are times when the child’s parents and...
Description: Early intervention is full of terms that people constantly use in writing and in conversation, and it’s important to know what those terms mean. We are pleased to provide this handy reference to early intervention terminology, and hopes it helps our readers quickly connect with the meaning of pivotal words and phrases in the field.
Description: The education of children with disabilities is a top national priority. Our nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), sets high standards for their achievement and guides how special help and services are made available in schools to address their individual needs.
Description: Module 1 welcomes everyone to Part C of IDEA—the early intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. With these training materials, you can learn about and provide training on: the 8 basic steps in the early intervention process; 7 acronyms used in early intervention and what they mean; and 9 key terms in early intervention and their definitions.
Description: The One-Pager is a simple tool to help provide important information about you. There are four categories: My Strengths My Preferences My Interests My Needs You identify what goes in these categories (with assistance from parents, teachers, etc.) to introduce yourselves to new teachers, employers, case managers, and others in your support system to clarify your needs and goals based on your strengths and interests. How to Use the One-Pager Use the app, fill out the template, or print it out! The...
Description: This section includes a compilation links to resources on: Employers Employment Supports Accessible Technology Communication Access Emergency Preparedness Flexible Work Arrangements Health Care Housing Personal Assistance Services Transportation Universal Design Individuals Other Topics  Apprenticehips Autism HIV/AIDS Mental Health Workforce System Customized Employment Integrated Employment Employment First
Description: This section provides information on assessment and eligibility determination guidelines to special education professionals who work with English Learners. These guidelines can be used where traditional evaluation procedures may not be appropriate and are based on specific aspects of diversity such as race, culture, the acculturation process, high mobility among families and poverty rates.  
Description: Being a parent is the most wonderful—and hardest—job in the world. If you have a child with special needs, your job is no less wonderful, but it can be more complicated. Your child’s education is most likely an area of great interest to you. As a child with a disability, he or she may be eligible for special education services in school. If so, then it will be important for you to learn: more about special education; how special education services can support your child; and...
Description: AT Consideration Guide App: IDEA (1997) added the requirement that each IEP team consider the need for assistive technology as part of the Consideration of Special Factors. IEP teams must also document their consideration of assistive technology in the IEP plan. The consideration guide is to assist school divisions in developing a process for consideration of AT in the IEP process. (Free)
Description: Children’s Challenging Behaviors is a six-hour workshop for parents of children and youth with mental health needs. In this workshop, a trained and experienced parent provides information to help parents understand typical behaviors versus challenging behaviors that require intervention. Parents learn when and how to seek help, develop parenting strategies, learn the ins and outs of special education and other educational supports, and discover community resources available to families and...