Eligibility for Special Education
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Eligibility for Special Education
How Your Student Qualifies for Special Education Services

Students determined eligible for special education services must meet all three of the following criteria:

  • The student must have a disability or disabilities.
  • The student's disability/disabilities adversely affect educational performance.
  • The student’s unique needs cannot be addressed through education in general education classes alone – with or without individual accommodations. The student requires specially designed instruction (SDI).

A diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional alone is not enough to qualify for special education services. Information from a doctor or mental health professional is helpful, however, and should be provided to the school district when a referral is made.

Eligibility is based on a comprehensive initial evaluation. A comprehensive initial evaluation includes all of the existing data gathered about the student through the referral process and any additional assessments needed to determine whether a student is eligible for special education. The initial evaluation report is used to determine what special education and related services the student needs.


+ What is SDI?

Specially designed instruction is a set of organized and planned instructional activities which adapt, as appropriate, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from a student’s disability.


+ Who decides what additional assessments need to be done?

The school district’s evaluation group will decide. The assessments should provide the district with functional, developmental, and academic information about your student. If the district needs assessments from outside sources in order to conduct a comprehensive evaluation, such as medical or neurological information, it must ensure the outside assessments are conducted by qualified providers, on contract basis or other means.


+ I think my student has a learning disability, how does s/he qualify for special education?

The requirements for determining whether a student has a Specific Learning Disability can vary by district. The booklet Identification of Students with Specific Learning Disabilities (PDF) provides more information about the overall SLD eligibility process.


+ What is RTI or Response to Intervention mean? Is the school required to use it?

RTI is a process based upon a student’s response to research-based interventions provided at the school. School districts are not required to use RTI. The district has the option of using either the severe discrepancy model or RTI procedures in making a determination about specific learning disabilities. You can find more detailed information about each of these methods by reading OSPI’s booklet on the Identification of Students with Specific Learning Disabilities (PDF).


+ How do I withdraw my student from special education services?

If you (or an adult student) revokes consent, in writing, for the continued provision of special education and related services, the district must honor the revocation and provide you with Prior Written Notice identifying the date the district will stop providing services.



   Updated 10/16/2013

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