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What is IDEA?

Special education is dictated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The following are general principals of the IDEA:

  • Child Find: public school staff must locate, evaluate, and identify children who may qualify for special education services under IDEA

  • IDEA is for children ages 3-21 who have been evaluated and found eligible for at least 1 of the 13 federal educational disability categories

  • All students in special education are entitled to FAPE (free and appropriate education)

  • Special education is “specifically designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability”.

Related services are services necessary to assist the child to benefit from special education. Related services identified in the law are: transportation, speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, social work services in the schools, school health services, school nurse services as described in the IEP, counseling services, orientation and mobility services, parent counseling and training, and medical services for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only.  This list is not exhaustive.


Who is entitled to a special education evaluation?


According to IDEA, all children in special education are entitled to FAPE (free appropriate public education).  Children over the age of 3, who have been identified of having a potential disability, are entitled to an assessment of their educational needs and a determination of eligibility for special education services.

How do I, as a parent, request an evaluation for special education?


As a parent or guardian, you have the right to request that your child’s school conduct an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible to receive special education services at any time.

To request an evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for special education, you should submit a written request to your child’s school. If your child is pre-school age and not enrolled in school yet, direct the letter to the School District’s Special Education Director. Otherwise, you could also address the letter to your School’s Principal or the building Special Education designee.

What is the special education evaluation process?


A student is referred for a special education evaluation by the parent or school.

The school has 60 days from the date of parental consent to evaluate the child and 30 days from the last date of testing to hold an eligibility conference.  The entire process could take up to 90 days total.

The evaluation should determine whether the child has a disability, how the child’s learning is impacted by the disability, and the educational needs of the child.

The evaluation must consist of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant information about the child, including information provided by the parent.  The child must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability.

The committee, which must include the general education teacher, special education teacher, and the parent, will then reconvene in order to determine whether the child is eligible for special education and related services.

How is special education eligibility determined?


There are 13 federal disability categories under IDEA.  The following are categories under which children with PCDH19 epilepsy MAY meet eligibility criteria:

  • Autism

  • Intellectual Disability

  • Other Health Impairment

  • Speech or Language Impairment

  • Multiple Disabilities


In order to be eligible for special education services, the child must meet the criteria for one of these disabilities and require special education and related services. Not all children with a disability require specialized instruction outside of the general education setting/curriculum.  

A copy of the evaluation report and documentation prof the determination of eligibility must be provided to the parents.

What are my child’s rights under IDEA?


If a child is found to have a disability under IDEA, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must be developed.

Through the IEP, some students in special education may also access related services.

Students should be served, to the maximum extent appropriate, with children who are not disabled. This is considered placement in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  Special classes, separate schooling, or removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment should occur only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.


For some children, it is necessary to have medical professionals on the evaluation team or at least be able to conduct medical evaluations.

The 2004 Amendments to IDEA defined related services to include school health services to be provided by a school nurse or other qualified person and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes.  This should be provided at no cost to the parents.


Behavior Plans


A behavior intervention plan (BIP) should be discussed and potentially developed for all students who hold an IEP and whose behavior impedes learning.

A BIP should consist of the use of positive behavioral supports and interventions in order to address the specified problem behavior.

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) should be used to guide the development of a BIP.  The FBA should be used in order to determine the function of the behavior, or why the behavior is occurring.  

The function of the behavior should be the driving force in the development of the BIP.  If the function is not correctly identified, the BIP will likely not be effective.  


  • Example:  If a student is acting out during reading class, is the student looking for attention or is it an escape behavior to get out of doing the assignment?  If the function is attention, the BIP may state that negative behaviors are ignored and positive behaviors are praised.  If the function is escape, the BIP may state that the student is allowed to take a break from the task for 5 minutes before returning to the undesirable task. Once the student completes the task, he/she will positive reinforcement.

The BIP should contain behavioral goals, the interventions selected to achieve the goals, and progress monitoring of growth toward the goals.  

What is a 504 plan?

Section 504 is a broad civil rights law protecting people with disabilities of all ages who are impacted by a public or private agency that receives federal money.

In the public school, Section 504 provides reasonable accommodations for students with whose disabilities “affect one of the major life activities” but do not necessarily significantly impact the child’s ability to learn.

Section 504 accommodations must be based on the student’s educational needs and be reasonable in nature.  

Section 504 is for students in the regular education setting.  It provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students.

An accommodation plan may be developed for an eligible student by a group of people knowledgeable about the student and must document modifications/accommodations to be made by the school which will allow the student to benefit from the school’s education services.

The list of potential accommodations is not exhaustive and only limited by students’ needs.  Common accommodations include preferential seating, extended time on assignments/tests, verbal testing, sensory breaks, behavioral management strategies, etc.

Section 504 requires that schools implement procedural safeguards for students and parents including a notice of rights, parental consent for evaluation, an opportunity to review student records, an opportunity for due process, and an opportunity for further review of local hearing decisions.  It is governed by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).


An evaluation for 504 can be requested at any time by the school or the parents if it is believed the child has a disability which substantially limits one or major life activity (such as walking, eating, sleeping, communicating, reading, concentrating, learning, speaking, etc.) and needs extra accommodations and/or modifications in order to access the general education curriculum.


Every school has a contact person responsible for overseeing 504 plans within the school/district.  A parent interested in having a child evaluated for 504 should contact this person and make a request to have his/her child evaluated.  It is always best to put the request in writing.

Looking for more information?

Here are some additional resources related to education:

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