The Special Education Process

  • What is a referral for special education?

    A referral is a written statement asking that the school district evaluate your child to determine if he or she needs special education services. This written statement should be addressed to the Director of PPS, or your school principal. The referral may result in a request to have your child tested to see if he or she needs special education services. You may discuss your concerns with your child's teacher prior to or in conjunction with requesting a referral to discuss other ways to assist your child. 

    Who else can make a referral for special education?

    You, the parent, can always make a referral for your child. Your child’s teacher or a professional in your child’s school may also make a referral to the Committee. Additional people who may make a referral include doctors, judicial officers (such as a family court judge or a probation officer) or a designated person in a public agency. For a preschool child, any of the people mentioned above may make a referral to the CPSE. In addition, a referral may also be made by someone from an Early Childhood Direction Center, an approved preschool program or an Early Intervention Program that serves children with disabilities from birth to age three. A student over eighteen and younger than 21 who is an emancipated minor may refer him or herself.

    What are the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) and the Committee on Special Education (CSE)?

    Every school district has a CPSE and a CSE that decides a child’s special education needs and services. he CPSE is responsible for children with disabilities ages 3-5. The CSE is responsible for children with disabilities ages 5-21. Some school districts also have Subcommittees on Special Education (sometimes called the Sub CSE). In New York City the Subcommittee is sometimes called the School Based Support Team. You are a member of the Committee that will recommend special education services for your child. You know your child better than anyone else and you have valuable knowledge to bring to Committee discussions. Other members of the Committees are people who have a broad range of experiences planning for and/or working with students with disabilities. Together you will work to make sure that special education programs and services are provided to meet your child’s needs. Throughout this Guide, these Committees will be referred to as the Committee, or in some cases, more specifically as the CSE or CPSE. Members of each of these Committees are listed on page 37.

    What is included in an individual evaluation?

    Evaluations must be comprehensive and provide information about your child’s unique abilities and needs. Evaluations include information from parents and a group of evaluators, including at least one special education teacher or other person with knowledge of your child’s (suspected) disability. An evaluation will provide information that relates to your child in his or her classroom. It will tell what your child needs to be involved in to participate and progress in general education curriculum. Tests and assessments, given as part of an evaluation, must be given in your child’s language by people who are trained, knowledgeable and/or certified to give the tests. The tests must be fair and not discriminate racially or culturally. An initial evaluation to determine your child’s needs must include:

    • a physical examination 
    • a psychological evaluation (if determined appropriate for school-age students, but mandatory for preschool children)
    • a social history
    • observation of your child in his or her current education setting
    • other tests or assessments that are appropriate for your child (such as a speech and language assessment or a functional behavioral assessment)
    • vocational assessments (required at age 12)

    The results of the evaluation must be provided to you. This may involve a meeting with the Committee in which the technical language and scoring of individual tests and assessments are explained to you, usually by the professionals who administered the tests or assessments. In addition, you must be given a copy of the evaluation report. You may also bring in evaluation information which the Committee must consider. If you feel that an evaluation conducted by the Committee is not appropriate or if you disagree with the results, you can obtain, and request that the school district pay for, an independent educational evaluation (IEE). For more information about evaluations and independent educational evaluations.