Guidance for Parents about Special Education Services
What is special education?
Special education is specially designed instruction which addresses the unique needs of a student eligible for special education services. Special education is provided at no cost to parents and includes related services needed to enable a student to access their educational services.
What is specially designed instruction (SDI)?
SDI means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction:
- To address the unique needs of the student that result from the student's disability; and
- To ensure student access to the general curriculum, allowing the student to work toward meeting educational standards set for all Washington state students.
What are related services?
Related services assist a student to benefit from their Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP team determines what related services the student needs. Related services include, but are not limited to: transportation; speech-language and audiology services; occupational therapy; psychological services; counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes, school health services and school nurse services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.
Accessing the General Education Curriculum
The ways in which a student accesses the general education curriculum can vary and are determined by:
- Identifying the student’s present levels of present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFPs).
- Using the student’s PLAAFPs to inform development of individualized annual IEP goals that relate to the general education curriculum.
- Identifying supports needed to enable the student to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum including, but not limited to, supplementary aids and services, as well as program modifications and supports provided to school personnel.
Key points to keep in mind:
- You do not need to become an expert in all areas of special education to be a good educational advocate for your child. However, every parent of an eligible student will benefit from having a firm understanding of special education basics—those essential processes that come together and serve as the foundation for every student’s special education program.
- Eligible students are entitled to a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE). The A” part of FAPE means appropriate, not “the very best” or “most potential maximizing.”
- Federal special education law emphasizes a team approach to developing a student’s individualized education program (IEP). Parents are full members of a student’s IEP team.
- While parents are full members of the IEP team, it is the district, because they are ultimately responsible for providing services that makes a final offer of FAPE for a student.
- While the district makes the final offer of FAPE, parents may formalize a disagreement over the district’s final offer of services and placement in three ways—mediation, citizen complaint, or due process hearing. (See Disagreements and Complaints about Special Education.)