A Parent Guide to Special Education
A Parent’s GuideClick Here to View English Version
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Special Education in New York State
for Children Ages 3–21
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What is Special Education?
Special education means specially designed individualized or group instruction or special services or programs to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. Special education services and programs are provided at no cost to the parent.
What are the steps in the Special Education Process?
Step 1: Initial Referral for Special Education Services
Students suspected of having a disability are referred to a multidisciplinary team called the Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Preschool Special Education.
Step 2: Individual Evaluation Process
The Committee evaluates the student's abilities and needs
Step 3: Determining Eligibility for Special Education Services
Based on evaluation results, the Committee decides if the student is eligible to receive special education services and programs.
Step 4: Individualized Education Program (IEP)
If the child is eligible to receive special education services, the Committee develops and implements an appropriate IEP based on evaluation results to meet the needs of the student.
Step 5: Annual Review/Reevaluation
The IEP is modified or revised by the Committee at an annual review. At least every 3 years, the student has a reevaluation to ensure that the student continues to need special education programs and services and to revise the IEP, as appropriate.
The process occurs sequentially with each step building on the previous one. In this way, comprehensive information about the student is obtained and considered. Timelines are in place so that delays are avoided. Parents are an integral part of this process, and your involvement is encouraged.
It is important to remember that special education is a service or a program; it is not a place. Throughout the process, consideration must be given to how special education services and/or programs can be provided in the least restrictive environment. Committees must first consider placement in a regular education program with supplementary aids and services provided to the student and/or the student's teacher in that setting. Alternative placements, such as special education classes, special schools or other removal from the general education environment should be considered only when the Committee determines that a student's education in regular education classes cannot be satisfactorily achieved, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. For some students, the least restrictive setting is a part-time or full-time special class or special school. The Committee must provide written justification as to the reason(s) why its recommendation is to place a student in a classroom other than a regular education classroom. For more information on least restrictive environment, see Programs and Services.
Eligibility for Special Education
What happens after the individual evaluation?
After the evaluation is completed, the parent will be invited to a meeting of the Committee On Special Education to talk about the results. At the meeting important information is shared about the child. The Committee will review the evaluation results and based on that information, and the input from the parent, the Committee decides if the child is eligible or ineligible to receive special education programs and/or services.
In order to be eligible, a child must have a disability that affects his or her ability to learn. In New York State, a child ages 3-5, may be identified as a "Preschooler with a Disability" if the CPSE identifies the child as having a disability because of mental, physical or emotional reasons. Some preschool children may be identified as having autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, hearing impairment, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment. Preschool students must meet one of the eligibility criteria to be determined eligible as a child with a disability who required special education. The criteria are described in section 200.16 of the Part 200 Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
A student with a disability means a child with a disability, as defined in Education Law; who does not turn 21 before September first; who is entitled to attend public school; who because of mental, physical or emotional reasons, has been identified as having a disability; and who requires special services or programs. Students, ages 5-21, who are identified as having a disability, may have autism, deafness, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, learning disability, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury or visual impairment (including blindness).
What happens if your child is ineligible for special education services?
If you, with the Committee, decide that your child does not require special education services or programs, the Committee will provide you with information indicating why the child is ineligible. If your child is of school-age, the Committee will also send information to the principal of your child's school. The principal will be able to work with professionals in the school or with your child's current teacher, the reading teacher, the guidance counselor, or another specialist to help your son or daughter; and may make a referral under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (a Federal civil rights law) to another multidisciplinary team within the school. The role of the team will be to determine whether or not your child meets the criteria for Reasonable Accommodations under Section 504.
What happens if our child is eligible for special education services?
If you and other members of the Committee decide your child is eligible for special education services, the Committee must identify the one disability category that most appropriately describes your child. The determination of a disability category is used solely for eligibility purposes and does not prescribe the program or services your child will receive. The committee will develop and implement an Individualized Educational Plan(IEP) to meet your child's needs.
You will receive a written notice that confirms the Committee's decision, and the information on which that decision was based.
If you disagree with the decision of the Committee, you may request mediation and/or an impartial hearing to resolve the disagreement.
What special education services may my child receive?
Special education services and programs may include specially designed instruction and/or supplementary aids and services provided in the regular class, consultant teacher services, related services, resource room programs, special classes, home and hospital instruction or placement in in-state or out-of-state private schools for school-age students.
For preschool students, the CPSE will first consider the appropriateness of providing related services only; or special education itinerant services only; or related services in combination with special education itinerant services; or a half-day preschool program; or a full-day preschool program. Before recommending that special education services be provided in a setting which includes only preschool children with disabilities, the CPSE shall first consider providing special education services in a setting where age-appropriate peers without disabilities are typically found.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
If, after reviewing the evaluation results, the Committee determines that the students has an educational disability, the Committee will recommend appropriate special education services in the "Least Restrictive Environment." Students should be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with their non-disabled peers. Students may be placed in more restrictive settings only when the use of supplementary aids and services are not sufficient. To satisfy this requirement, the Committee will review the continuum of services available.
How can we be sure my child's program is meeting his or her needs?
At least once a year, you and other members of the Committee will review your child's IEP. You may request a meeting sooner than that. Together, you will make decisions about any necessary changes to your child's program. This is called an annual review.
At least every three years, your school district will reevaluate your child. This is called a reevaluation (formerly called the triennial evaluation). If additional data are needed as part of this reevaluation, your school district will ask your written consent prior to conducting these tests. The results of the reevaluation will be used to determine your child's individual needs and progress, whether your child still requires special education services, and what should be changed to address your child's needs.
Transition planning is geared towards preparing young people for adult life. The process of transition is more difficult for youth with disabilities and requires unique strategies to enable each student to achieve the maximal independence and to insure their success as participating adults in their homes and in their communities.
Through IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Article 89, transitional services are a coordinated set of activities, which are designed to prepare the students for adulthood. Some of these outcomes may include post secondary education, employment, vocational training, adult education, adult services, independent living and community participation. The set of activities for each student needs to be based on the students' individual needs, preferences and interests. School districts are currently required to provide transition services for all students with disabilities ages 15-21.
The Committee on Special Education implements transitional plans within the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) process for secondary students. The transitional planning process incorporates activities and post school outcomes for each student to fully prepare them for adult life to the greatest extent possible.