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Special Education

Understanding the Special Education Process

10 Basic Steps in Special Education (NICHCY)
This document from NICHCY does an outstanding job at breaking down the special education process into ten basic steps to make it easily understandable for individuals not already familiar with special education.

Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 - This site was created to provide a "one-stop shop" for resources related to IDEA and its implementing regulations.  It is a "living" website and will change and grow as resources and information become available.

Disability Awareness Newsletter (CSMH)
This newsletter reviews signs of a learning disorder and offers strategies to help those students in the classroom.

Evaluating Children for Disability (NICHCY)
This document from NICHCY provides more information and resources related to the initial evaluation process needed to consider eligibility for special educati

Psychological Evaluations (National Association of School Psychologists)
This article provides information for parents to understand the purpose, strengths, and limitations of the psychological evaluation process.

The Special Education Process (NAMI)
This article was written to help families understand their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Special Education Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities (NICHCY)
This document provides basic information and links to resources related to helping children ages 3 to 5 related to evaluation and access to special education services.

State Evaluation Timelines for Special Education (COPAA)
This document provides a summary of state timelines for being in compliance with special education deadlines.  There is some variability related to these deadlines across states.

Understanding the Special Education Process (LD Online)
Provides nationally-relevant information on how to understand the eligibility and testing process, along with key terms to know when requesting testing for your child

Definitions of Key Terms in Special Education

Glossary (
Defines special education related terms in a user-friendly, easy to understand manner (

Key Terms to Know in Special Education (NICHCY)
This glossary provides definitions for common terms used within the special education process.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A Primer for Parents
This article provides information for parents concerning Response to Intervention, a schoolwide, multi-step approach to providing services and interventions for struggling students.

Support, Modifications, Accommodations for Students (NICHCY)
This document provides a more detailed definition of what is actually meant by supports, modification, and accommondations.

Understanding the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

All About the IEP (NICHCY)
This document from NICHCY provides comprehensive information in an easy to understand format about the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Attending Meetings to Plan Your Child’s IEP (PACER)
This document provides clear suggestions for what a parent can do before, during, and after the IEP meeting to help make the IEP process successful.

Contents of the IEP (NICHCY)
This Powerpoint presentation highlights the different components of an IEP.

How Can My Child Be Involved in the IEP Process (PACER)
This document provides recommendations for how to best involve a child in the IEP process

IEP Team: A Guide to Participation for Parents (National Association of School Psychologists)
This guide from NASP provides an introduction to the IEP process to help parents have an idea of what to expect, feel more comfortable in the meeting, and be better able to advocate for their child’s educational needs.

Laws Related to Special Education (NICHCY)
This summary document from NICHCY provides information about the laws that are important to ensuring the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Related Services (NICHCY)
This document describes commonly implemented supports for students receiving special education services, and provides further information on related services.

U.S. Department of Education Guide to the IEP
Published by the Department of Education, the site provides detailed information on what the IEP looks like, including team members, available services, and deliverables.

Use Questions to Find Answers: A Guide for Parents of Children Receiving Special Education Services (PACER)
This list of questions from PACER offers parents ideas of questions they can ask during IEP meetings.  

Understanding 504 Plans

504 Plans: Information for Parents/Caregivers (MSMHA)
This document provides a definition of a 504 Plan for parents and caregivers, as well as links for further information and resources.

Discrimination: Section 504 and ADA
This update from highlights legal questions and policy related to 504 plans.

Understanding the Differences between IDEA and Section 504 (Council for Exceptional Children)
This brief overview highlights unique aspects of 504 plans.

State Examples of Navigating the Special Education System


Special Education Handbook (Maryland Disability Law Center)
Provides a comprehensive overview of special education law for children ages 3-21 on topical areas like eligibility, the IEP, and educational placement

Understanding Special Education and Advocating for your Child (MANSEF)
Published by the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF), this document provides a comprehensive overview on how to navigate the special education process and advocate for your son/daughter's educational needs.

New Jersey

Your Child's Right to Special Education
Developed by Legal Services of New Jersey, this page provides information about how to navigate the New Jersey special education system.


Whose IDEA Is This?: A Parent's Guide to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA)
This guide from the Ohio Department of Education's Office for Exceptional Children simplifies the language of the Individuals with
Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) to main points that will help parents be an partner in their child’s education.


Still a Good IDEA!
Provides a comprehensive overview of the special education process for parents, including sample letters for requesting special education testing and evaluations.  (Please note this presentation predates the Reauthorization of IDEA 2004)

Strategies and Tips for Parents

150 Ways to Show Kids You Care (Search Institute)
This handout provides 150 ideas of how adults can show kids that they are cared about.

Advocating For Your Child: 25 Tips for Parents (NAMI)
This outline offers parents specific tips and suggestions for advocacy efforts on behalf of their children.

Behavior Modification in the Classroom (LD Online)
A great resource for teachers and parents on popular approaches in successful management of student behavior in the classroom.

IEP and Inclusion Tips for Parents and Teachers (Developed by Anne I. Eason, Esq. & Kathleen Whitbread, PhD.)
A comprehensive and user-friendly guide that provides systematic strategies in becoming more active and successful participants in the IEP.

Tips for Parents: Parenting Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)
This document provides parenting strategies for families of children with ADHD, Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Mental Retardation, and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Twelve Commandments for Parents (PACER)
This list of “commandments” provides helpful tips for parents of children with disabilities

Advocacy and Legal Issues

Advocating For Your Child: 25 Tips for Parents (NAMI)
This outline offers parents specific tips and suggestions for advocacy efforts on behalf of their children.

Helping Parents Understand Their Rights in Special Education (NAMI)
This article features an interview about the Iindividuals with Disabilities Education Act with Matthew D. Cohen, J.D., founder of a lawfirm in Chicago specializing in special education.

Effective Collaboration

How You Can Help Your Child Be a Good Self Advocate (PACER)
This document provides clear recommendations on how a parent can support the development of a child’s self advocacy skills

Improving Family Involvement in Special Education: Opportunities and Solutions for Improving Family Involvement (Council for Exceptional Children)
This page provides suggestions on how to improve collaboration wtih families of students receiving special education services.

Targeting Home-School Collaboration for Students with ADHD (LD Online)
Information on how to successfully collaborate with the school in supporting your child's IEP goals in the classroom and at home

Relevant Research in Special Education

Facts from NLTS2: School Behavior and Disciplinary Experiences of Youth with Disabilities
Data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) that provide a national picture of disciplinary experiences at the secondary school level of youth with disabilities, offering a perspective on youth who exhibit problem behaviors at school and on schools’ implementation of disciplinary actions.

Relevant Research in Special Education (CSMH)
This document highlights key findings from the literature related to special education, with an emphasis on youth with emotional disturbance.  These findings provide a foundation for better understanding the current status of special education in the United States.