Starting the Process

Things to Consider

If you think your child may need special education services, keep in mind that:

  • Children learn and develop at different speeds and in different ways.
  • Children who learn differently do not necessarily have a disability.
  • Children should not be referred for special education services because of limited English proficiency.

If English is not your child's first language, your child may be able to get support through an English as a New Language (ENL) or bilingual program. 

Find Out More

Eligibility

Your child may be eligible for special education services if they show delays in:

  • Thinking and learning
  • Understanding and using language
  • Self-help skills (toileting, eating, dressing)
  • Behavior (getting along with others, expressing feelings)
  • Physical ability (vision, hearing, movement)

Talking to Teachers/Care Providers

Talk to your child's teachers and care providers. They can share information about how your child is doing in school and you can share information about how your child is doing at home. Here are some questions to help you think about what to share:

  • What brings out the best in your child?
  • What are your child's strengths, challenges, and interests?
  • What does your child like to do outside of school?
  • What do you do at home to encourage positive behavior and learning?
  • What areas does your child need extra help with?

Questions to Ask

  • What are my child’s strengths and challenges in the classroom?
  • How do you support my child when they need help?
  • Do you have examples of my child’s work that we can look at together?
  • Is my child learning and developing at a rate that is expected for their age?
  • How does my child get along with other students in the classroom?
  • Are there programs in the community that might help my child?
  • What are some learning activities I can do at home or in the neighborhood?
  • What are some questions I can ask my child when we read together?
  • How can I help my child if they are struggling with homework?

Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention (RTI) is an approach schools use to match individual students with the teaching practices and level of support that work best for them. While you may make a referral for a special education evaluation at any time, public schools serving students in grades K-12 are required to implement RTI before making a referral.

How it Works:

RTI is a three-tiered model. At each step, more support is offered to students who need it.

  • Tier 1: For all students. This is high-quality, differentiated instruction provided in a general education classroom.
  • Tier 2: May include small group instruction or additional instructional time.
  • Tier 3: More intensive instruction that may include materials or programs to target your child's needs.

Teachers using RTI will:

  • Use screening methods to assess your child's skills and behaviors.
  • Determine if your child needs more support than the instruction provided in general education.
  • Provide interventions as needed.
  • Monitor your child's progress to determine if the intervention is working and, if not, how it might need to be adjusted.

What’s Next?

If RTI has been provided and your child still needs more support, you or the DOE can make a referral for an evaluation for special education. You can also request a Section 504 Accommodation.

504 Accommodation

Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires public schools to provide eligible students with accommodations so they can participate in school activities with non-disabled peers.

  • Under Section 504, a student with a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities is eligible to receive accommodations.
  • A student who requires medication during the school day or an accessible school building, for example, may have a 504 Accommodation.
  • If your child is in a Pre-K for All program and has medical needs, e-mail EarlyChildhoodPolicy@schools.nyc.gov.

Read the 504 Frequently Asked Questions for more information:

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