Understanding Special Education: The Basics

  • hope partnership for education teacher with students working

Special education is a program for eligible special needs children with a disability, which protects a child’s legal right to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). With proper supports, special education ensures the child can make measurable progress in the classroom.

Your child may be eligible if he or she has a documented physical, emotional, or intellectual disability or has been determined to be eligible by an evaluation team. Federal and state laws require public schools to provide related services for children with special needs.

For eligible children, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will detail the support services according to the child’s needs. These services may include special transportation, speech therapy, psychological counseling, remediation, and/or autism support.

If you think that your child may need specialized services, speak first with your child’s teacher. Discuss your observations and concerns about your child’s learning progress. To begin the evaluation process, submit a written request for an evaluation to the school principal. Review commonly asked questions and answers about the evaluation process here.

Special education law requires that schools report to parents regularly on their child’s progress toward those previously established goals.

Please see the following pages for more detailed information about special education:


DISCLAIMER: This information, from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, provides a general idea of Pennsylvania and federal special education laws and should not be considered legal advice.

For individual help, families and advocates of children with special needs can call ConsultLine at 1-800-879-2301. If you have questions concerning your child’s special education program or the laws relating to the provision of services in your child’s IEP, the special education specialists at ConsultLine may be able to assist you. You may also contact the Education Law Center for further help on education law questions and Special Education advocacy.

For assistance in Spanish, call the Spanish Help-Line Plus at 1-877-983-7627.


More Information

Looking for more information on finding a great school? See all articles here.