Understanding Special Education

New to Special Education?

Special education means specially designed instruction to meet the unique educational needs of a child with a disability.  It includes instruction; accommodations/modifications; supports; and related services needed as determined by the child’s individualized education program team.  The parent is invited to participate as a team member.

When parents or school staff notice that a student might need special help, they should give that information to the school system.  A team will gather information and decide if an evaluation is needed.  Information given by the parents is very important.

An evaluation is a careful look by a team of teachers and specialists at a student’s abilities, strengths, and areas of need.  It provides information about the student’s educational needs and will also include information provided from the parents.

In order for a student to receive special education services, the student must meet the criteria of one or more of the thirteen disability categories which adversely affects educational performance.  At the eligibility meeting, a team of qualified professionals and the parents of the student make a decision as to whether or not a student meets the requirements to receive special education services.  If the student is found eligible, then an IEP will be developed and special education services will begin.  If the student is not found eligible, then he/she may qualify under Section 504.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) describes the educational program that has been designed to meet that child’s unique needs.  Each child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP.  The IEP is developed in and IEP meeting with a group of individuals such as teachers, parents/guardians, administrators, related services personnel, and sutdent (when appropriate) who work collaboratively to create a plan that provides meaningful benefit for the student with a disability, including transition services.

At least once a year, the IEP team meets to review/revise the student’s IEP.

At least every three years, a student’s eligibility is reviewed which may, or may not, involve new evaluations.

Services for identified students are provided in the least restrictive environment in a manner consistent with all applicable federal and state regulations. 

Teachers provide special education services across a continuum of service options that range from the least restrictive to the most restrictive.  Students receive services determined by their specific needs.  Services include general education with consultative support, general education with collaborative support from special education teacher, self-contained classes in a separate location, separate special education school or homebased or homebound instruction

Related services means developmental, corrective or supportive services required for a child with a disability to benefit from special education, including 

Your Family’s Special Education Rights-Virginia Procedural Safeguards 
Your Family’s Special Education Rights-Virginia Procedural Safeguards in Spanish