An Overview of Special Education

Special Education

The term "special education" means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including:

  1. Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and 

  2. Instruction in physical education.

Due Process Hearing

A due process hearing is one of the administrative remedies available to parents and school districts to resolve special education disputes. It is a court-like administrative proceeding governed by IDEA and other laws.

Other Need-to-Know Special Education Terminology:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities.

ARD Meeting

ARD is an acronym for Admission, Review and Dismissal. In Texas, the meetings in which special education supports and services for a student are determined are referred to as ARD meetings. Other states call these meetings IEP Meetings.


Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The term “individualized education program” or “IEP” means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with section 1414(d) of the IDEA and that includes:

  • a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFPS);

  • a statement of measurable annual goals including academic and functional goals;

  • a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and when progress reports will be provided;

  • a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the child and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided for the child;

  • an explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in extracurricular and nonacademic activities;

  • a statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on state and district-wide assessments and a statement regarding alternate assessments decided upon by the committee, if any;

  • the projected date for the beginning of the services and modifications as well as the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of same; and

  • beginning no later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child is 16 and updated annually thereafter, a transition plan.

Child with a Disability

(A)  In general:

The term “child with a disability” means a child—

  1. with intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this chapter as “emotional disturbance”), orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and

  2. who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

(B)  Child aged 3 through 9:

The term “child with a disability” for a child aged 3 through 9 (or any subset of that age range, including ages 3 through 5) may, at the discretion of the State and the local educational agency, include a child—

  1. experiencing developmental delays, as defined by the State and as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in 1 or more of the following areas: physical development; cognitive development; communication development; social or emotional development; or adaptive development; and

  2. who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

The term “free appropriate public education” means special education and related services that—

  1. have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;

  2. meet the standards of the State educational agency;

  3. include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and

  4. are provided in conformity with the individualized education program required under section 1414 (d) of the IDEA.

Related Services

(A)  In general the term “related services” means transportation, and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services (including speech-language pathology and audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, social work services, school nurse services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education as described in the individualized education program of the child, counseling services including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and mobility services, and medical services, except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in children.

(B)  Exception The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

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Holly Griffith Terrell

Law Office of Holly Terrell, PLLC

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Pearland, Texas 77584

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