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Special education refers to specially designed instructional services beyond the general classroom program. It is for children with disabilities in one or a combination of any of the following areas: health, physical, developmental, sensory, intellectual, neurological, emotional, communication, or specific learning issues which impact their ability to make effective progress in school. Services may include classroom modifications, physical/occupational/speech therapy, or placement in a specialized program or school.
Prior to a student being referred for a special education evaluation, it is the school district’s responsibility to ensure a variety of instructional supports and/or classroom accommodations have been attempted within the general education setting. Documentation of the use of instructional supports and/or accommodations must be made part of the student’s record.
A parent/guardian, teacher, or other professional may refer a student for an evaluation through special education. When a student is referred for a special education evaluation, written consent from the parent/guardian must be obtained prior to beginning the evaluation process period. The evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive to assist in identifying all of the student’s possible special education and related service needs. The type of evaluation tools and professionals evaluating each student depends on each student’s individual needs.
After all evaluations are completed, the Team (consisting of parents/guardians, evaluators, teachers, a Team leader, and any other necessary school staff) will convene to determine whether the lack of progress is the result of a disability and whether the student requires specially designed instruction in order to make progress and access the general education curriculum. The team may find the student eligible for special education services or may make a finding of no eligibility. If the student is found not eligible, the Team may explore other programs and/or supports within the school that are available to the student.
If a student is determined to be eligible for special education services, the Team will develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a legal document which defines individualized objectives for a student found to have a disability as defined by federal regulations. The IEP must be tailored to the individual student’s needs and will drive the student’s placement. Once the IEP is written, the parent/guardian must sign consent for the proposed services to begin.
For more information about special education, please follow the links below to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.