The Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a free appropriate public education to all eligible children with disabilities. Refer to Evaluation & Eligibility for more information. The steps in the special education process include:
- Identification and referral
- Determination of eligibility
- Development of an individualized education program (IEP) and determination of services
There are timelines schools must follow for each step. Timelines help to prevent any delay. Procedural safeguards, which are rights given to the parents of a child with a disability and the child upon reaching the age of majority (age 18), ensure that the child is provided a free appropriate public education according to the Federal and State rules. The services and placement of students with disabilities who need special education, are developed through an IEP, which is the responsibility of local public school divisions.
The Federal and State definition of special education and specially designed instruction are:
"Special education" means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent(s), to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including instruction conducted in a classroom, in the home, in hospitals, in institutions, and in other settings and instruction in physical education. The term includes each of the following if it meets the requirements of the definition of special education: (§ 22.1-213 of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR 300.39)
- Speech-language pathology services or any other related service, if the service is considered special education rather than a related service under state standards;
- Vocational education; and
- Travel training.
Specially Designed Instruction
"Specially designed instruction" means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction: (34 CFR 300.39(b)(3))
- To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child's disability; and
- To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards that apply to all children within the jurisdiction of the local educational agency.
Parent Ombudsman for Special Education
VDOE has an Ombudsman for Special Education who acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering individuals' questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and issues. Visit Parent Ombudsman for Special Education or download the one-page handout to learn more.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Schools can play a key role in Suicide Prevention. The task of all professionals involved in and dedicated to the education of children is to help prevent death by suicide whenever possible. When school personnel, families, and communities take an active role in suicide prevention lives can be saved.
COVID-19 Special Education Resources
The health and safety of our children and staff are our top priorities. Visit COVID-19 Special Education Resources for the latest information for parents, families and caregivers on a variety of topics related to COVID-19 and their students.
Back to Basics
The Virginia Department of Education in partnership with Old Dominion University have created the Back to Basics Modules which provide introductory information for teachers and division personnelon special education compliance, laws, and regulations.
Information for Parents
Information for Parents - Parents play an important role in the education of their children, especially parents of children who are identified as having disabilities. The law requires that parents and school personnel work together to provide children with appropriate educational services.
- Parent's Guide
- Training Opportunities
- Resolving Issues
- Diploma Options
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Developmental Delay
- Emotional Disability
- Intellectual Disability
- Learning Disability (Dyslexia & Dysgraphia)
- Multiple Disabilities
- Other Health Impairment
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Sensory Disabilities
- Speech-Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Early Childhood Special Education
For children with disabilities, Virginia's public school system offers early childhood services as part of their special education programs. These Early Childhood Special Education services provide children with disabilities the services needed to attain skills that are comparable to their typically developing peers.
- Birth - Age 2: Early Intervention
- Ages 2 - 5: Early Childhood Special Education
- Transitioning from Early Intervention to Early Childhood
Transition Services for Students with Disabilities is designed to improve the outcomes of students with disabilities in transition to postsecondary education and employment.
IEP & Instruction
The services and placement of students with disabilities who need special education, are developed through an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is the responsibility of local public school divisions.
- Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)
- Assessment & Accommodations
- Assistive Technology
- Behavior Management, FBA & BIP
- Content Literacy Continuum & Strategic Instruction Model
- English Language Learners
- Evaluation & Eligibility
- Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Interpreter Training
- Special Education in Jails
- Related Services
- Virginia IEP
Private Day & Residential Schools
In compliance with the Code of Virginia, (§ 22.1-321), the Board of Education has authorized the Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue licenses to Private Day & Residential Schools to operate schools for students with disabilities.
Special Education Staff Contacts
- Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services, Phone 804-786-8079, Text Users Dial 711 (Virginia Relay)
- Division of Special Education & Student Services Contact List
- Directory of Private Day & Residential Schools for Students With Disabilities-This is a Word document.
- Regional Special Education Programs
The following newsletters are available from the Virginia Department of Education related to Special Education. Enter your email into the VDOE GovDelivery subscription form to select which newsletters you want to receive.
- Engage Your Family - Information for Families of Students with Disabilities
- OT PT Update - Information for Occupational Therapists/Physical Therapists
- Special Education Instructional Services
- SLP Updates & News - Information for Speech-Language Pathologists
- Upward Update - Secondary Transition
The following videos are available on the VDOE YouTube channel:
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