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Eligibility for Special Education Services in Massachusetts


In Massachusetts, a child between the ages of three and twenty-one who has not attained a high school diploma may be eligible for special education services in Massachusetts. In order for a child to qualify as a child with a disability and receive special education services and supports under the IDEA, a child must first be assessed by the school district.  The results of the assessment will then be considered by a special education team. The team consists of qualified professionals and the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s).  The team then has the authority to make decision as to whether a child is eligible for special education services in Massachusetts. 

To be eligible for services, the team must find that:

  • The child has a disability;
  • The child is not making effective progress in regular education due to the disability; and
  • The child requires either specially designed instruction or a related service which is necessary to allow the child to access the general education curriculum.

What types of disabilities are eligible for special education services in Massachusetts?

The categories of disabilities recognized by the IDEA and Massachusetts law include:

  • Autism
  • Developmental Delay
  • Intellectual Impairment
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Sensory Impairment
  • Neurological Impairment
  • Emotional Impairment
  • Communication Impairment
  • Physical Impairment
  • Health Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability

How do I know if my child is making effective progress?

Effective progress is defined as making documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social and emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to the child’s chronological age and developmental expectations, the individual educational potential of the child and the Massachusetts learning standards. Determining a child’s eligibility for special education services in Massachusetts can be tricky. It is not based just on report cards and teacher reports, but usually requires evaluations by experts who can help you understand your child’s performance and potential.

Knowledgeable and experienced school lawyers

Understanding how to determine eligibility for special education services in Massachusetts using the criteria under the IDEA and state law can be overwhelming. If you have questions about your child’s eligibility for special education services in Massachusetts, call us. We understand the steps that are necessary to get your child the free appropriate public education he or she is legally entitled to receive.

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