Who Qualifies for Special Education Services?
When your child demonstrates academic, social or emotional difficulties at school, you may wonder whether he or she might need special education services. How is a child found eligible for such services?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Massachusetts law require that all children with disabilities be provided with a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrict environment (LRE).
Public school districts meet these requirement by providing eligible children with special education and related services.
In Massachusetts, eligible children can be between the ages of three and twenty-two years old.
Children are determined eligible for special education services if they (1) have a disability, (2) are not making effective progress in a general education setting due to that disability, and (3) require specially designed instruction and related services in order to access the general education curriculum.
In order to determine whether a child is eligible for special education services, a child must first be referred for an initial evaluation. Parents, caregivers, or professionals can make the referral.
Upon receiving a referral, the school district where the child resides is required to seek parental consent before conducting an evaluation. If parental consent is not obtained, the district may seek authorization from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA).
Once parental consent has been given or authorization has been provided by the BSEA, the school district will conduct an evaluation of the child at no cost to the parents.
The school district will then use the results of the evaluation to determine whether the child is eligible to receive special education services.