1. What is special education?

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet a child's unique needs (that result from having a disability) and help the child learn the information and skills that other children are learning in the general education setting.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, is a law that provides eligible children with disabilities the right to receive special services and assistance in school at no cost to their parents.

  1. Who is eligible for special education?

Children with disabilities are eligible for special education and related services when they meet IDEA's definition of a "child with a disability" in combination with state and local policies. IDEA's definition of a "child with a disability" lists 14 different disability categories under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. These categories include: Autism, Visual Impairment (including Blindness), Specific Learning Disability, Deaf- Blindness, Serious Emotional Disturbance, Other Health Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Deafness, Hearing Impairment, Orthopedic Impairment, Multiple Disability, Intellectual Disability, Developmental Delay(Kindergarten only), Speech or Language Impairment.question-mark

  1. How do I find out if my child is eligible for special education?

You may ask the school to evaluate yourchild. Call or write the director of special services or the principal of your child's school. Describe your concerns with your child's educational performance and request an evaluation under IDEA, to see if a disability is involved. The school will schedule an Individual Education Plan (IEP) team meeting at a mutually convenient date and time to discuss your concerns about your child's educational performance.

  1. What happens at the IEP team meeting?

The IEP team consists of parents, general education and special education teachers, a school administrator, and may include other staff who know your child well such as a guidance counselor. Parents may invite other people to the IEP team meeting who they feel can provide valuable information to the team about your child.

During the confidential IEP team meeting all members of the team will participate and provide input about your child's progress in school. Information and data regarding your child's academic performance will be shared with the team. The team will discuss options that have been attempted to help your child to be successful and will offer further suggestions to support him or her. If the team agrees that your child may have a disability, the school must obtain your permission and receive your written consent before they begin the evaluation process of your child.

  1. How is eligibility determined?

Once the evaluation of your child has been completed and you've had an opportunity to review the written test report, the IEP team, which includes the parents, will reconvene to discuss the results of the evaluation. Decisions about the child's eligibility for services is based on whether he or she has a disability that fits into one of the IDEA's 14 disability categories and meets any additional state or local criteria for eligibility. The team will review all of the evaluation data gathered during the evaluation, along with additional reports provided by the classroom teacher, and decide if your child meets the definition of "a child with a disability." If so, the team will further consider whether your child's disability requires the delivery of specialized instruction or related services for the child to receive benefit from his or her educational program.

  1. Do all students who are found eligible require special education or is there another option?

If your child is found eligible, but the team determines that he or she does not require direct instruction or modification of the curriculum as a result of that disability in order to receive benefit from his or her education program, your child might benefit from a program of accommodations available through a Section 504 plan. A Section 504 plan of accommodations allows the student to receive accommodations within the general education setting which supports his or her access to the curriculum.

  1. What happens if my child is found eligible and in need of special education instruction or related services?

If the IEP team reaches consensus that a student requires special education instruction and related services an Individual Education Plan document, known as the IEP, is developed. The IEP is a legal document which clearly outlines a formal plan of specific services and instruction that will be provided to the student including detailed academic, functional, and/or developmental goals and accommodations that will guide the student toward academic success.

The IEP document is reviewed by the IEP team at least once each year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review of the plan. Parents, as team members, are invited to participate in the annual IEP meetings and can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP, and agree or disagree with the placement. The team will work together to achieve consensus.

Student progress toward the annual goals is measured and reported to the parent on a regular basis. At least every three years the child must be reevaluated to determine the student's continued eligibility and need for special education services. This meeting is referred to as a triennial review. The IEP team may determine that formal evaluations are not necessary as part of a triennial and may instead choose to use other curriculum based measures or reports.

  1. Where does my child go to receive special education services?

Under the law, children with disabilities should be in general education classes as much as they can with supports. Some special education students may go to a special class, like a resource room, for some or part of a day. Special education law says that children with disabilities should learn in the least restrictive environment; therefore, he or she should learn with children who do not have disabilities as often as possible. The IEP team will decide which learning location and environment is most appropriate for the student depending upon his or her individual needs.

  1. Will my child stay in special education forever?

Your child will continue to receive special education services until the team determines that they are no longer required for the student to progress in the general curriculum. Parents have the right to revoke permission for their child to receive special education services at any time, but must do so in writing. Special education services automatically end when a student graduates with a regular high school diploma or exceeds the age eligibility under state law.

Please fine additional information is available at:

US Department of Education

Maine.Gov | Special Ed