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 – 2): 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 FAPE is provided to
eligible students with disabilities. The Washington state regulations on special
education can be found in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter
+ What is the difference between Section 504 and Special Education?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law which prohibits discrimination against
students based on disability. Section 504 ensures that students with disabilities have equal access to educational programs, services, and activities.
Special education is governed by the IDEA. Accommodations and/or related aids
and services provided under Section 504 are included in a Section 504 Plan.
Special Education is different from Section 504 because special education
requires school districts to provide eligible students with specially designed instruction
in accordance with an IEP. Students eligible for special education,
however, are still protected from discrimination under Section 504 and have
appropriate accommodations and/or related aides and services included as part of
+ 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.
TAP #1: The Individuals with Disabilities Act: A Review of the Basics (PDF)