Understanding how students qualify for special education services can seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be. In this video, we will break down the basics of special education qualification in the K-12 public school system.
SPED Qualification: An Introduction
Special education can be a complicated field. It is a field that is full of unique language, rules, and procedures.
In this video, we are going to look at the first step for a student who may require special education services: qualification. Hopefully, when we’re finished, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of how a student qualifies for special education services. In order to make this process a little easier to understand, we’ll learn about the special education qualification process by walking through an example.Before we do that, though, let’s make sure we’re clear about some basics. First, qualification can be a complicated process, and there can be minor variations to the process depending on location. The minute specifics of the qualification process are beyond the scope of this video, but we can still gain a very solid understanding of the basics. There are also many different ways in which a student may qualify for special education services.
Services can range from very minor support to being educated in a self-contained setting.In order to qualify for special education services, a student must be included in one of 14 disability categories as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, for short. IDEA refers to the federal special education law that outlines special education services and qualification requirements. It is written to protect the educational rights of students with disabilities.
Currently, IDEA recognizes the following 14 categories that warrant qualification for special education services: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment, including blindness.Now, that may seem like a lot to process, and it is, but all of these areas are well defined by IDEA. If you want to read up on a specific category, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities is a great resource. To make it simple, though, evaluators seek to determine if inclusion in one or more of these categories hinders a student’s access to education. With those basics outlined, let’s walk through an example that will help make the process clearer.
SPED Qualification: An Example
There are several steps that are typically followed in order for a student to qualify to receive special education services.
To make it easier, we’ll break those steps down as we go through our example. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Recognizing a Need
Meet Jimmy. Jimmy is a third-grade student who loves school. His teachers say that he is well behaved and always gives his best effort. Jimmy is an excellent student, but when it comes to math class, Jimmy really struggles.
He tells his teacher that the numbers all run together in his head and that he just doesn’t get it.
Step 2: Intervention Through the RTI Process
His teachers have tried several methods of intervention and implemented many levels of support for Jimmy. They have gone through the response to intervention process, or RTI. RTI is a 3-tiered intervention and support model designed for early identification and support of students who possess academic or behavioral needs.
Step 3: Referral
Despite all of this support, Jimmy still struggles in math.
Because of this, Jimmy’s teachers contact his mother and father. After a discussion, everyone decides that it is in Jimmy’s best interest to refer him for evaluation for special education services.
Step 4: Evaluation
Now that Jimmy has been referred for special education services, he will receive a number of different evaluations. Most often, the school psychologist conducts this initial evaluation. The school psychologist will use a variety of assessments to determine intelligence information.
Jimmy will be evaluated for both his strengths and his weaknesses. Along with psychological testing, Jimmy’s state and local test scores may be evaluated along with the history of his classroom performance. Parental input is usually included as are teacher observation reports.The goal is to get a clear and complete picture of Jimmy’s school performance to identify areas where he exhibits strengths and to find any areas where Jimmy may show a need for support. Sometimes, this process can be lengthy, but the goal is for everyone to work as quickly, yet as thoroughly, as possible.
Step 5: Recommendation for Services
After Jimmy’s evaluation, it is determined that while he does exhibit strengths in a number of academic areas, including literacy skills, and while his intelligence quotient is well within the normal range, he does show a particular need in the area of mathematics. Specifically, the evaluation suggested that Jimmy may struggle with fundamental computation skills. Jimmy’s struggles in math along with some of the results of his psychological testing indicate that he qualifies for special education services under the category of a Specific Learning Disability.
Step 6: Developing an IEP
Once the psychologist makes the recommendation for services, the rest of Jimmy’s experience will be pretty straightforward. A meeting will be called in order to go over the results of Jimmy’s evaluation. Next, a team of stakeholders will meet, including Jimmy’s parents or guardians, one or more general education teachers, and a special education teacher. The team will develop an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. An IEP is the document that will outline the support services that will best support Jimmy’s learning needs. Jimmy will be given goals targeted at improving his abilities in math. His goals and his IEP will be evaluated annually.
With the right support, Jimmy can see plenty of success!
Jimmy’s example was certainly a general one. The qualification process can vary from student to student and place to place. However, we’ve learned some basics of the special education qualification process.First, we learned that there are 14 areas under which a student can qualify for special education services as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Then, we learned that students are referred for special education services after the response to intervention process has proven unsuccessful. This referral process then leads to an evaluation, typically conducted by a school psychologist, for qualification for special education services. This process typically includes psychological testing and the review of assessment data.
Finally, we learned that upon qualification, a team of professionals will create an Individualized Education Plan for the student that will outline the services the student will receive. While we’ve simplified the process, understanding these basics will have you well on your way to thoroughly understanding the special education qualification process.
Complete this video lesson, then assess your ability to:
- Reference the 14 categories that determine whether students qualify for special education services
- Identify and discuss the six steps of the special education qualification process for public school students