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A Guide to Understanding the Special Education Process

All children learn differently. When children learn differently, this is not a bad thing. It may just mean that they need supports that special education services can provide. However, it's hard to know where to start. The complicated process, confusing words, and endless paperwork can leave many families feeling hopeless about their chance to get their child the services they really need.

This resource was created to help families understand the process of special education and what certain services mean for their child’s future. In this family guide, you will find explanations and definitions of the special education and early intervention process from start to finish. You will also find your rights and your child’s rights explained, tips to make meetings about special education a little easier, and additional resources you can explore to become even more of an expert in special education and disability activism

Download our guide to help you understand the process of special education and what certain services mean for their child's future.

What Is Special Education?

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. Since each child is unique, it is difficult to give an overall example of special education. It is individualized for each child.

Why Is Special Education Important?

It can be overwhelming to start the special education process for your child. You may ask yourself questions such as "Where do I start? Who do I call? Which service do they need? How do I know the school or early intervention program will do what’s right for my child?"

The best way to make this process less stressful is to learn as much as you can about special education so you can advocate for both you and your child. 

More Important Things to Know About the Special Education Process

What does it mean if your child has a developmental delay?

If your child has a developmental delay that means they may need some support in one or more of these areas. Developmental delays are good to identify early in your child’s life because they can begin to receive support. According to Zero to Three “approximately 16-18% of children have disabilities or developmental delays“and are more common than we think!

What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP?

For a child who is having trouble in school, a 504 plan can offer a lot of support. The plan can put in place changes to how your child is taught, like frequent breaks or audiobooks. 504 plans are great for children who don’t need special education but who do need support to learn. Many children will get a 504 plan if they were found NOT eligible for an IEP. If you are not sure whether your child needs an IEP or a 504 plan, it is best to request a referral for an IEP.

Help Stand Against Inequality for Children 

Right now, the international community has yet to prioritize the needs of the 240 million children who live with a disability. Children are missing out on the futures they deserve. Your monthly donation can make a major difference in their lives and communities.