What Is Special Education? - OSPI
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What Is Special Education?

Special education is specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of a student eligible to receive special education services. Special education is provided at no cost to parents and includes the related services a student needs to access her/his educational program.

    Early Stages (ages 0 – 3): Early intervention services are available to children who have disabilities and/or developmental delays. The Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program provides services to eligible children and families in a variety of settings – in their homes, in child care, in preschool or school programs, and in their communities.

    School Age (ages 3 – 21): Students with disabilities who are determined eligible for special education and related services are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Services are provided to eligible students according to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in preschools, elementary, and secondary schools, or other appropriate settings.


+ What laws govern special education?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 is the federal law that guarantees a FAPE is provided to students with disabilities. The Washington state regulations on special education can be found in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 392-172A. If you’d like further details about how special education works:


+ What is the difference between Section 504 and the IDEA?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that students with disabilities have equal access to educational programs, services, and activities. The IDEA is a special education law. Section 504 is different from IDEA in that it does not provide for specially designed instruction or require creating an IEP.


+ What rights do parents and students have under the law?

Parents and students have rights under special education law. These rights are outlined in a document called Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards. School districts are required to give a copy of this document to the students and their families who are receiving special education services.


+ How can OSPI assist with special education issues?

The OSPI Special Education Parent Liaison provides support to parents, guardians, educators and students with disabilities. The Parent Liaison is a neutral party who advocates for a fair process. The Parent Liaison is often called upon when parents want to understand more about the special education process and are seeking assistance in resolving disagreements with school districts about special education services.


   Updated 4/11/2014

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