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Process and Timeline around Special Education Services

Each school district is required by law to offer Special Education services. It can be helpful to understand the process and timelines around requesting Special Education services at school.

Every U.S. state has a Special Education Department, which is listed on the Board of Education website. Additionally, many local areas may have their own Special Education Community Advisory committee. Usually, these groups are familiar with the schools and processes in their local area and provide support to parents. For example, Selpa 1 CAC covers Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View in Northern California. You can contact the school district’s Special Education department, but the easiest way to get started is to simply talk to your school.

Here is an example of a Special Education process in California:

  • Child has challenges in school
  • Talk to child’s teacher
  • Send written request to principal
  • Meet with Student Study Team (Teacher, administrator and school psychologist)
  • You will receive a Response To Intervention (RTI) and/or assessment for Special Education by the school team (requires written agreement )
  • This will result in one of four findings, which have to be reached within 60 days of the written request:
      • Improvements with no intervention
      • School-based intervention and accommodation
      • a 504 Plan
      • an IEP.
  • An IEP will result in proposed goals and a 504 Plan will put school-based accommodations in place.

This Special Education guide provides a detailed description of the various steps in the process.

Schools are expected to follow a timeline by law so parents don’t have to wait before their children get the help they need. Timelines vary by state – check out the timeline for your state through your school, or State or County Board of Education or the local advisory committee. Here are a few examples of timelines in California and Maine.



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