Eligibility for Special Education

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How Your Student Qualifies for Special Education Services

Students determined eligible for special education services must meet all three of the following criteria:

  • The student must have a disability or disabilities.
  • The student's disability/disabilities adversely affect educational performance.
  • The student’s unique needs cannot be addressed through education in general education classes alone – with or without individual accommodations and requires specially designed instruction (SDI).

Eligibility is based on a comprehensive initial evaluation. A comprehensive initial evaluation includes all of the existing data gathered about the student through the referral process and any additional assessments needed to determine whether a student is eligible for special education. The initial evaluation report is used to determine what special education and related services the student needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SDI?

Specially designed instruction is a set of organized and planned instructional activities which adapt, as appropriate, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs that result from a student’s disability.

Who decides what assessments need to be done as part of the initial evaluation for special education eligibility?

The school district’s evaluation group will decide. The assessments should provide the district with functional, developmental, and academic information about your student. If the district needs assessments from outside sources in order to conduct a comprehensive evaluation, such as medical or neurological information, it must ensure the outside assessments are conducted by qualified providers.

Do I need to get a medical diagnosis for my student’s disability before the district can find my student eligible for special education?

You are not required to obtain and provide the school district with a medical diagnosis for your student in order for a district to evaluate your student for special education. A medical diagnosis is also not required in order to be found eligible for special education services. The school district, however, may request that you provide any medical information you may have as part of the referral process and may, if necessary, seek your consent to obtain a medical statement or assessment indicating whether there are any other factors that may be affecting your student's educational performance as part of any district evaluation.

I think my student has a learning disability, how does s/he qualify for special education?

The requirements for determining whether a student has a Specific Learning Disability can vary by district. The booklet Identification of Students with Specific Learning Disabilities provides more information about the overall SLD eligibility process.

What does RTI or Response to Intervention mean? Is the school required to use it?

RTI is a multi-tiered system of support model based upon a student’s response to research-based interventions provided at the school. School districts are not required to use RTI. The district has the option of using either the severe discrepancy model or RTI procedures in making a determination about specific learning disabilities. You can find more detailed information about each of these methods by reading OSPI’s booklet on the Identification of Students with Specific Learning Disabilities.

How do I withdraw my student from special education services?

If you (or an adult student) revokes consent, in writing, for the continued provision of special education and related services, the district must honor the revocation and provide you with Prior Written Notice identifying the date the district will stop providing services.