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Special Education 101

What is Special Education?

  • A wide range of educational modifications and services to students aged 3 to 21 with disabilities
  • Accommodations and services are customized with each student’s needs in mind
  • Should give disabled students a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment so they have the opportunity to learn among their non-disabled peers
  • Governed by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Autism spectrum disorder

Specific learning disability (e.g., dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalcula, auditory processing disorder, nonverbal learning disorder)

Other health impairment (e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD)

Emotional disturbance (e.g., anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)

Speech or language impairment

Visual impairment, including blindness

Hearing impairment



Orthopedic impairment

Intellectual disability

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Multiple disabilities

Out-of-District Placement

  • Possible when a parent feels that their child’s assigned school district cannot meet his or her educational needs
  • Requires proof that the child is not meeting the goals of his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP) and that the school cannot adequately modify the plan to address those needs
  • Allows for placement in a charter school, private school, other public school, or residential school
  • A special education attorney can help handle any disputes involving out-of-district placement
  • A customized special education plan available to students with one of the 13 qualifying disabilities under IDEA
  • Developed with a team of parents and educators
  • Parent or school can request that a student undergo an IEP evaluation
  • Not all students with a qualifying disability are eligible for an IEP — the disability must interfere with the child’s ability to function well in a general education setting
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