Special Education Services (SES) are designed to help students with disabilities. There are 14 categories of disability that qualify children for SES. Those categories are:
Other health impairment
Specific learning disability
Speech or language impairment
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairment, including blindness
To learn more about these categories, visit the Center for Parent Information and Resources website.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team decides whether a student is eligible for SES. The IEP Team uses information about the student from evaluations, assessments, and observations to make its decision. The IEP Team is made up of school representatives, teachers, and you. Advocates, evaluators, and the student can also be part of the IEP Team. Anyone you want to bring along for support can also be part of the Team.
Every student who is eligible for SES needs an IEP. The IEP Team makes the student’s IEP based on the information it has. The IEP lists specific behavioral and educational goals for the student. It also says which supports and services the student will need. It is important to have an IEP so that your child gets the proper help. The IEP Team should help your child to achieve the goals in the IEP.
Notice of Potential Disability
You, your child’s other parent or legal guardian(s), or your child’s teacher can tell the school that your child may have a disability. When the school receives written notice of a potential disability, it has to follow special rules about responding. Use the Do-It-Yourself Letter Requesting Special Education Services (SES) or 504 Services tool to help you draft a letter to give to your child’s school as notice of a possible disability.
All schools receiving public funding have a duty to identify and evaluate all students in need of SES. This duty comes from a system known as Child Find. A federal law requires states to make sure this duty is met. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of Education website’s Child Find section.
The Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation Team Meeting
Within 10 school days of receiving written notice of the potential disability, the school must tell you that it plans to evaluate your child. You must give the school written permission before it can evaluate your child. After you give the school permission, the school must schedule a Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) meeting, and discuss the results with you within 30 school days. The meeting can be scheduled for later than 30 school days only if the parent(s) and school agree. However, Michigan and federal laws say that the meeting cannot be postponed much longer than a month.
The people on the MET are professionals. They might be teachers, therapists, social workers, or other specialists. The Team does in-depth evaluations of your child. The MET talks about its findings with the IEP Team. The MET will give its opinion about what services your child needs. Finally, the IEP Team will make a plan and write your child’s IEP, if the child is eligible for SES. Remember, you are part of the IEP Team and your child can be, too. Everyone must work together to help your child.
To learn more about METs, read Evaluations for Students With Disabilities.
The IEP Team Meeting
If your child is eligible for SES, an IEP Team will meet to talk about what is best for your child. The IEP Team must meet at least once a year to discuss the goals and education strategies for your child. You and your child’s other parent must be invited to the meetings. The meetings should be scheduled on a day and at a time when you can attend. It is important to go to these meetings every time.
The school must tell you about the meeting before it happens. The school must explain what the meeting is about, who will be there, and what jobs those people have. The school must do everything possible to make sure you know when and where the meeting will be. The school must work with you to try to set the meeting at a time and place that works for both you and the school.
Typically, at least one week before the meeting the school should send you copies of the evaluations. This is to give you time to review the evaluations before the meeting. Any questions you have about the evaluations can be asked and answered during the meeting.
During the meeting, the school must make sure you understand what is happening. The school must get an interpreter if you think you won’t understand people speaking in English.
If you cannot go to the meeting in person, you can join by phone or video conference. If you cannot join the meeting at all, the school can have the meeting without you. But the school must keep a record of how you were invited and other efforts made to include you. These records could include phone calls, letters, e-mails, and visits to your home.
IEP Team Meeting Procedures
Every IEP Team meeting will be different because every student is different. However, there are some standard steps in the process. Before the meeting starts, every person should introduce himself or herself. The meeting chairperson is usually a school administrator or special education director. The chairperson will explain the reason for the meeting. They will also explain the basic rules to follow during the meeting. These rules are normally about how each person is expected to behave and participate.
At the meeting about whether your child is eligible for SES, the chairperson usually gives the reasons why your child was evaluated. Then they will go over the different tests that were used to evaluate your child. The Team will talk about the results, the recommendations of the MET, answer any questions you may have, and go over any other important information. If you do not understand some of the terms that the IEP Team is using, you should ask them to explain. You are a crucial part of the Team so it is important for you to understand what is being said. The Team will then decide if your child is eligible for SES. If any Team members disagree with this decision, the Team can wait to get more information. The school district must pay for any extra testing that the IEP Team says will be helpful.
If the IEP Team agrees that your child is eligible for SES, the members can start to write an IEP during the same meeting. Or, they can schedule another meeting to do it. When the IEP Team agrees on what the IEP should say, the members sign the IEP document. Remember, you are part of the IEP Team and your child can be, too.
If the IEP Team agrees that your child is not eligible for SES, your child will not get SES. If you don’t agree with the IEP Team’s decision, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). To learn more about IEEs, read Evaluations of Students With Disabilities. You can ask that your child be reevaluated. Use the Do-It-Yourself Letter Requesting Special Education Services (SES) or 504 Services tool to help you draft a letter requesting your child be reevaluated. You can also file a complaint with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) about your child's need for SES. Use the Do-It-Yourself Letter Requesting Special Education Services (SES) or 504 Services tool to help you draft your complaint.
After Eligibility is Determined
After the IEP Team decides that your child is eligible for SES, the school has seven days to tell you about some important information. The school must give you a letter that says:
Your child is eligible for SES
What services your child can get
Where your child can get the services
When your child will start getting the services
You have 10 days to agree or disagree with the information about SES for your child. You or your child’s other parent must let the school know whether you agree with the school’s decision(s). You do this by signing an agreement to allow the school to provide SES to your child. If you agree and give the school your permission to offer SES to your child, the school must start giving your child SES within 15 school days.
If you don’t agree with the proposed SES, you must appeal. You can ask for another IEP Team meeting or you can file a due process hearing request. To learn more about due process hearings, read Due Process Hearings and Education-Related Complaints. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter Requesting Special Education Services (SES) or 504 Services tool to draft a letter requesting another IEP meeting.
Free mediation is also available to resolve any disputes involving SES. To learn more about mediation, visit the Special Education Mediation Services website.
You can ask the IEP Team to meet again during the same school year. If something changes in your child’s situation, you or a teacher may want to talk about the new information. The IEP Team can make small changes to the IEP. The changes must be in writing, and you and school staff must sign that you agree. Or, the IEP Team can write a whole new IEP if the Team thinks it would be better.
There is no limit on how many times an IEP Team can meet in one year. But you should only ask for a meeting if you are very worried about the IEP and the kind of help your child is getting in school.
Your child may have a disability but does not need an IEP to get help. Students with one or more of the 14 listed disabilities need an IEP. If your child is having trouble in school or requires an accommodation but is not eligible for SES, they may be eligible for different kinds of help. There is another law, Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, that says what help your child may be entitled to. To learn more, read 504 Plans in School.