Special Education

Special Education Explained

What is Special Education?

Special education is instruction, specially designed to the student, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.

Students with disabilities are general education students first. They receive special education support services in conjunction with the general education curriculum. Special education is a specialized instructional service, not a place. 

Who can receive Special Education Services?

To qualify for special education services, a child must have a disability. A student may be referred by a teacher or by a parent. Prior to the referral, accommodations must be made and interventions attempted in the general education classroom. If the documentation from the interventions shows that the students is still not progressing academically, then a referral for special education evaluation may be recommended. If it appears that there is a need for an individual evaluation, the parent(s) will be invited to an evaluation planning meeting with school staff to determine the areas to be evaluated. A parent must approve the initial evaluation plan by signing the "Notice of an Education Evaluation/Re-Evaluation Plan."

A document titled "Parental Rights and Procedural Safeguards" will be given to the parents with the initial evaluation request. The evaluation must be completed within 30 school days from the date the written consent is received by the school district.

The child must meet state eligibility criteria in one or more of the following areas:
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Blind-Visually Impaired
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Developmental Cognitive Disability: Mild/Moderate
Developmental Cognitive Disability: Severe/Profound
Developmental Delay Infant and Toddler
Developmental Delay Ages 3-6
Emotional or Behavior Disorder
Other Health Disability
Physical Impairment
Severely Multiply Impaired
Specific Learning Disability
Speech or Language Impairment
Traumatic Brain Injury


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (34 C.F.R. Part 104) is a federal civil rights statute that assures individuals will not be discriminated against based on their disability. All school districts that receive federal funding are responsible for the implementation of this law. This law protects a student with an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, whether the student receives special education services or not.

Examples of physical or mental impairments that may be covered under Section 504 include: epilepsy, AIDS, allergies, vision impairment, broken limbs, cancer, diabetes, asthma, temporary condition due to accidents or illness, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, depression, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Examples of major life activities that can be affected by the student’s disability include: learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, speaking, walking, breathing, sleeping, caring for oneself, as well as major bodily functions, including brain function, immune system function, or digestive functions. This is not an exhaustive list.  

Source:  http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/StuRight/Sect504/