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Special Education Process

What is the Special Education Process?

The special education process is designed to ensure that each individual child’s needs are carefully considered and addressed.

The stages of the special education process form a repeating cycle, beginning with an evaluation of where things are (student’s strengths, needs, and performance) and moves next to the creation of a plan of action (the IEP). Next, the team implements the plan and monitors the student’s progress. At the end of the cycle, the team examines the student’s growth, determines his or her new starting place, updates the plan for further advancement, and begins carrying out the new plan. With each repetition of this cycle of “evaluate, plan, implement, monitor, re-evaluate,” the team measures the student’s growth as goals are mastered, continued, or reset at higher levels. Over time, the broad goal is for the student to close gaps relative to his or her peers and to work toward an age-appropriate grade level, and ultimately, adult-level independence.

In Texas, this special education process is called the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) process. Other states refer to this as the IEP process. 

Did you know?

There is no “menu” or comprehensive list of special education supports available to all students. Supports are tailored based on an individual child’s needs. Just because one child receives a given support does not mean another will or should automatically get that same support. Your child’s team may choose or design something for him or her that other students don’t need or have. Teams may create something new for a unique situation, as well.

Special Education Process Components

General Education Intervention

General education interventions are outside, or leading up to, special education services.

  • When a student seems to be struggling with grade-level curriculum, or his or her social, emotional, or behavioral skills don’t appear to be developmentally appropriate, the school may take a number of steps to help.
  • The school will attempt to identify the reasons for the student’s difficulty, which will help to determine which interventions might be most effective. This process is called the RTI (Response to Intervention) process.

Evaluation

Evaluations determing eligibility and the foundation for planning. The initial evaluation answers three questions:

  1. Does my child have a disability?
  2. What is his or her profile as a learner?
  3. Does my child need special education and related services?

Evaluation begins with a planning meeting. The goal of the evaluation plan is to explore the areas of suspected disability and to decide which tests and professionals might be involved in the evaluation process.

IEP Design and ARD Meeting

The IEP (Individualized Education Program) is the roadmap for instruction and related services. The IEP describes the specific services and support your child needs and the school will provide. The IEP answers two main questions:

  1. What does the child need to learn or do academically?
  2. What does the child need to learn or do functionally?

Special education services cannot begin until the ARD/IEP committee formally adopts the plan. This happens in an ARD/IEP meeting.

IEP Implementation

  • The plan in action.
  • The implementation phase of the ARD/IEP process is when your child’s actual daily school routine occurs.
  • The specifics of the IEP are playing out: your child is learning skills and curriculum with the supports needed in the environments conducive to his or her success.

IEP Monitoring & Reporting

  • Tweaks and adjustments.
  • Tracking your child’s progress along the way is an essential part of the IEP process.
  • Along with regular report cards all students receive, you will receive an additional IEP progress report showing how your child is performing on each goal.
  • If your child’s progress isn’t proceeding as expected, the team should discuss whether different or additional strategies and supports might be appropriate.

Dismissal, Graduation, Revocation

  • Exit from special education and related services
  • The length of time your student receives services is based on his or her unique needs.
  • As long as your child has a qualifying disability that creates enough impact on his or her education, your child will continue to be eligible for services.
  • Special education “ends” in one of three ways:
    • Your child may be dismissed from special education if the need for specially designed instruction is no longer present. Dismissal from special education or a related service, such as counseling, must be based on current evaluation data.
    • Your child meets the requirements for graduation.
    • You or your adult child revokes consent for the school to provide special education.

Want to Know More?

Dig Deeper and learn more about the special education process in Texas using the following resources:

SPED Parent Handbook

Gives parents a basic grounding in the special education process and the use of strategies, facilitation skills, and techniques to improve the process.

LEARN MORE

IDEA Legal Framework

  • Notice of Procedural Safeguards
  • Special Education Rules & Regulations

LEARN MORE

Texas Project First

Search for evaluation procedures, evaluation rights-overview, special education eligibility rules.

LEARN MORE

Did you know?

The stages of the special education process form a repeating cycle, beginning with an evaluation of where things are (student’s strengths, needs, and performance) and moves next to the creation of a plan of action (the IEP). Next, the team implements the plan and monitors the student’s progress. At the end of the cycle, the team examines the student’s growth, determines his or her new starting place, updates the plan for further advancement, and begins carrying out the new plan.

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