When it comes to understanding special education eligibility, it can feel confusing and overwhelming. Use the following special education eligibility facts to help you navigate the ins and outs of the process, without losing your cool.
Note: Use my FREE eligibility resource sheet to further simplify things. Find it HERE.
5 Special Education Eligibility Facts Every Parent Should Know
Eligibility Fact #1:
To be eligible for special education a student needs to meet two criteria: they must meet the criteria for eligibility AND require special education services. A student can meet eligibility criteria, but be successful in school. When that’s the case, that student won’t meet the eligibility requirement for special education services. Students need to meet both criteria in order to qualify.
Eligibility Fact #2:
There are 13 eligibility areas that a student can be eligible in, including:
- Emotional Disturbance
- Hearing Impairment
- Intellectual Disabilities
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairments
- Specific Learning Disabilities
- Speech or Language Impairments
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment
These 13 eligibility areas can cover a range of disabilities, and are determined and further defined by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Of course, a student can meet criteria in more than one area, but will not qualify if they do not meet criteria in at least one area.
Eligibility Fact #3:
Eligibility is determined through use of the following methods:
- Formal testing
- Informal testing
- Parent input
- Student input
- Teacher input
Generally, any evaluation or testing that takes place will account, as applicable, for the child’s “health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities”.
Eligibility Fact #4:
Eligibility must be determined within an IEP meeting. Once the assessment/evaluation is completed, an IEP meeting will be held and the team will determine if a student is eligible. If a student is eligible, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be designed by the team for the purpose of meeting the child’s unique educational needs.
Eligibility Fact #5:
Eligibility is re-evaluated at least every three years. At that point, a student is re-evaluated, using the above-listed methods, and the team once again determines if the student continues to meet eligibility criteria. Eligibility can change from assessment to assessment, meaning that a student may no longer be eligible, or they may become eligible in a different category. The key is knowing where the student requires the most educational assistance.
Simplifying Special Education Eligibility
There’s nothing simple about special education eligibility, but know that you don’t have to go it alone. If you are looking for more support and want to continue to become a better advocate for your child, make sure to check out out my course, IEPs Untangled. It’s geared toward parents just like you, and untangles and simplifies the entire IEP process. Check it out HERE.