What are the Steps in the Special Education Process?

What are the Steps in the Special Education Process?

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The Special Education process can be super confusing.


I’m going to break it down for you so it will be less complicated.



Steps in the Special Education Process 


First, everything has an acronym! You have probably heard some of these acronyms, such as:



Grab our Special Education Acronym Guide with over 120 acronyms most used terms in the special education process and their definitions.

Special Education Process Step # 1 | What if I suspect my child has a learning disability?


If you do think your child has a learning disability, you can request an evaluation to be done by the school. An assessment will be completed and an evaluation report written (ER). 


Then, an education team will review the results of this report to determine if your child is eligible for services. 


If results prove your child is eligible, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting must take place within 30 calendar days after your child was found eligible. 



Special Education Process Step # 2 | What if the ER determines that my child has a learning disability?


If the special education team agrees that your child is eligible for services, you will meet as a team for what is called the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting.


Remember, you, as the parent is an equal member of this team! Most of the time, this meeting will take place at the school.  


Other members of the special education process team could include:

  • The general education teacher
  • The special education teacher
  • Principal
  • School counselor
  • Related service providers, such as speech or occupational therapists


Special Education Process Step # 3 | What happens at the IEP meeting?

The IEP will contain: 

  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Benchmarks 


The team expects your child to achieve these three things this year. At this time, services, such as speech and occupational therapy, are also determined. 


Also, at the IEP meeting, the location of services and necessary modifications are determined. 


One important thing to remember is the placement of your child MUST be in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) while meeting your child’s needs. 


If you agree with the IEP and the placement, your child will receive all services outlined in the IEP. 


Special Education Process Step # 4 |  How do I track my child’s progress?


As the year progresses, you will receive progress reports from his or her teacher. These are usually done quarterly, but can also be by trimester. 


If you notice changes in the reports (decline in skills or mastery of skills), you can request an IEP meeting to discuss and revise the IEP at any time.


The IEP team will meet one time a year (minimum) to discuss progress toward IEP goals. Based on the progress reports, changes can be made to the IEP. As a parent, you have the right to agree or disagree with IEP changes.


Your child will continue to receive services as outlined in the IEP as long as the services are needed. A reevaluation is conducted once every three years to assess eligibility further. 


**Please note, some laws vary from state to state. This Special Education Process is a rough outline, as the process is very similar across the country. Please consult your state’s Department of Education for further details or questions. 


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What are the Steps in the Special Education Process?
The Special Education process can be very confusing for parents! Are you feeling lost? Let me break it down for you in 4 Simple steps.

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Melissa Barto


  1. I love this! This would’ve been helpful for my mom when she was raising us. You are awesome for helping moms with this!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this informative post. My sister in law is a special education teacher and she is amazing and is rewarded by the progress in her students each and every day. I am going to bookmark and share with her. Thank you as there is a lot to the process.

  3. At the moment I’ve heard stories of the waiting lists for assessments etc over here to confirm the need for special education in children. It’s reaching highs of 8 months to a year before kids are getting the help they need in the classroom. It’s a disgrace. I wish there was some way parents could fast track it, even if it cost a little extra, but sadly there isn’t.

  4. This is good information. My children are not special needs but an IEP can be applied to any child who is struggling whatever the reason. Thanks for sharing this.

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