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Special Education Tip #5: Determine if Your Child is Eligible for Special Education Services

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Special Education Tip #5: Determine if Your Child is Eligible for Special Education Services

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Determine if Your Child is Eligible for Special Education Services

Many parents of students who require special education services have concerns about their child’s progress or particular learning needs beginning at a young age. While parents always know their child best, in order to receive special education services in Massachusetts through the public school system, a student must first be referred for an evaluation to determine if he is eligible to receive such services.

To be eligible for services, a child must:

  1.      Have a disability;
  2.      Not be making effective progress in regular education due to the disability; and
  3.      Require either specially designed instruction or a related service that is necessary to access the general education curriculum.

The local school district where the child resides will make the determination as to whether a child meets these criteria and is therefore eligible to receive special education or related services. As mentioned above, the initial step in this process is the referral for an evaluation. Under Massachusetts and federal law, a parent or a person in a caregiving or professional position may refer a child for an initial evaluation to determine if a child is eligible for special education services.

Once the school district receives this referral, the district must send a written notice to the parents requesting parental consent to conduct an evaluation, and also provide an opportunity for the child’s parents to discuss their concerns and share information with district personnel. If parental consent is not given, the district may obtain authorization from a hearing officer at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA). After consent or authorization is obtained, the district must conduct the evaluation at no cost to the parent. Massachusetts special education law provides specific timelines for conducting this evaluation and reviewing the results with parents, which we will discuss in our next special education article.

Our suggestion: if you have concerns about your child’s progress, request an evaluation. The findings of an evaluation may lead to entitlement to necessary services, or, at the very least, assure you that your child’s progress is satisfactory.

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