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Who Is Eligible for Special Education Services?

The federal government, through legislation entitled Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states that a child with a disability is defined as a school age child who has been evaluated and determined to have one of the following disabilities that adversely affects the child's educational performance and who therefore needs special education and related services. 

The disabilities include: a cognitive disability (mental retardation), a hearing impairment including deafness, a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment including blindness, an emotional disturbance, an orthopedic impairment, autism, a traumatic brain injury, another health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities.

The law also requires public schools to provide services to preschool age students (ages 3-5) with disabilities if they are at least three years of age and not age six, have a disability demonstrated by a documented deficit in one or more areas of development, which has an adverse effect upon normal development and functioning.

A multi-factored evaluation team (MFE) will make the final disability determination. If a student is identified as a student with a disability, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will be written by the IEP team. Team members include parents, teachers, administrators and other identified service providers. The IEP will document the student's needs and provide goals and objectives to address those needs. The IEP will also determine the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) where services to meet the goals and objectives will be provided.

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