Learn the basics of special education for children and youth ages 3-21 and how to get started.

What is special education?

Children and youth ages 3 through 21 that have disabilities may be eligible for special education services. A child is considered educationally handicapped or disabled if they are having trouble learning in school because of mental, physical and/or emotional disabilities. A student must be evaluated to see if they are eligible for special education.

Where do I start if I think my child needs special education?

If your child is 3-21 years:

  • Ask your local school district for an evaluation to see if your child qualifies for special education services. This is called making a referral. A referral must be made in writing. Your child does not have to have a diagnosis before making a referral. Children who are home schooled or attend a private school are evaluated by their home school district.
  • If you live in Washington State, learn how to make a referral from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
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