Special Education Referral
THE SPECIAL EDUCATION REFERRAL PROCESS: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Some common special education acronyms:
IEP = Individual Education Plan
RTI = Response to Intervention
504 = 504 Section of the Americans with Disabilities Act
ELL = English Language Learner; ESL= English as a Second Language
IDEA = Individuals with Disability Education Act
What is Special Education?
Special Education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs related to a child’s disability. Needs that are not related to the disability are not addressed by an IEP but are part of a student's regular education program, including regular education supports and interventions that are available to all students.
What are RTI, IEP, and 504 teams?
Individual Education Plan (IEP) team is composed of regular and special educators, parents, related service providers, evaluators, and administrators charged with evaluating students who have or are suspected to have disabilities that make them eligible for special education under IDEA and Maine state special education regulations. The IEP team determines eligibility for special education and writes individual education plans for eligible students.
Response to Intervention is a team of educators who meet together on a regular basis to discuss students’ problems and brainstorm solutions to them. The RTI team may suggest interventions when a teacher or parent is considering referring the child to special education. RTI minutes document students’ issues and interventions in case of later referral to the IEP. Data gathered from interventions will provide important information should the student be referred to special education when pre-referral interventions don’t work.
The 504 Team is similar to the IEP team in their charge with determining if a student is eligible for services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and with developing an accommodation plan for eligible students.
What about confidentiality?
Educational records and information are confidential in RTI, 504, and IEP meetings. Confidentiality of student records is protected under FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act).
What if the classroom teacher and the parents have concerns that the student may have a disability?
The teacher and principal bring their concerns to the Response to Intervention team to collect information and plan pre-referral interventions. The purpose of the RTI team is to solve problems, select pre-referral interventions, and provide proactive approach to addressing the student's learning needs. When the district sends notice of referral to the parent, it must note pre-referral interventions and the outcomes of those interventions. Data collected from interventions is included in the referral process.
What if the child is in crisis?
The RTI team should use interventions other than or in addition to a referral to Special Education. Special education is a long term educational process for students with disabilities that allows them to have educational benefit. Special ed does not function quickly to deal with crises. Midcoast Mental Health Crisis Services 24- hour hotline is 1-888 568-1112.
What if the child is getting poor grades?
The RTI Team should ask why this is happening. We know that students who have difficulty at school do not necessarily have a disability or require special education. The RTI team will delve into areas the student is having difficulty with and come up with targeted interventions to address specific needs. Poor grades does not mean an automatic referral to special education, but should raise a red flag that the student may need additional instruction or supports in order to be successful at school.
What if the parent or guardian has concerns that the child may have a disability?
The best place to start is the RTI team for some problem solving and interventions. However, parents have the right to refer their child to special education at any time they suspect their child may have a disability.
How the special education referral and evaluation process works:
What if pre-referral interventions are not successful? What if the RTI Team believes that the student has a disability and needs special education?
Referrals may be made by the RTI team or any individual with an educational interest in the child. The special education referral form is completed and sent to the building principal. After the principal and special education teacher have reviewed and approved the referral, they forward it to the special education director, who has 15 school days from receiving it to mail out an initial notice to parents requesting their consent for evaluation. The director may choose to schedule a IEP meeting to discuss the referral and request parent consent for evaluation at the meeting. When the director receives written consent from parents, he/she assigns evaluators. From the date the consent is received by the director, the district has 45 school days to complete the evaluation and convene the IEP team. Evaluators turn in reports to the director by a specified date. When all evaluations are in, the special services office sends a notice and copies to parents. Evaluations are sent to the assigned case-manger who distributes copies to teacher(s) who need to read them before the IEP. The Special Education office schedules the IEP meeting, the IEP convenes, reviews evaluations and determines if the child is a student with a disability who needs special education. If the child does meet the disability criteria and does require special education, the IEP team writes an IEP. Services may be delivered only upon written permission from parents for special education placement.