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Special Education is a general term used to describe the law’s requirement of specially designed curriculum for children with disabilities. These services are provided by public schools and are free of charge.

A member of the Judson ISD Special Olympics team lifts weights.

A member of the Judson ISD Special Olympics team lifts weights.

Special Education Services

Early identification and intervention are crucial for supporting children with disabilities.  Special education services help children reach their full potential. In Texas, families have access to Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services from birth to age three, providing vital support and resources to kickstart their child’s developmental journey.

Parents can take crucial steps to support their child’s unique needs, recognize signs that may indicate the need for specialized assistance, and understand the qualifications necessary to receive special education services.

An NEISD student uses an adaptive PE bike.

An NEISD student uses an adaptive PE bike.

First Steps to Support Your Child's Special Needs

If you are concerned about your child (age 2 years 9 months – 20 years) falling behind their peers or if your child’s doctor suggests special needs school services, take action.

  • School Evaluations: To access school support, your child must be evaluated by the district, even if other external evaluations exist. Remember, these evaluations are free in public schools.
  • Start the Evaluation Process: Anyone can request an evaluation (a “referral”). 
  • Required Parental Approval: Although anyone can initiate the referral process, parental or guardian consent is necessary for the evaluation to proceed. 
  • Mandatory Written Request: A written request for evaluation is mandatory. Address a written request to the school principal and special education director. If unsure who they are, ask your child’s teacher.  If your child isn’t in school yet, find your assigned school through the district and send the referral there.

Recognizing Potential Signs of Special Needs in Children

  • Impulsiveness in actions without considering consequences.
  • Behavioral challenges in school or social settings.
  • Difficulty maintaining focus and being easily distracted.
  • Speech difficulties, such as trouble pronouncing words or expressing thoughts.
  • Inconsistent school performance.
  • Speech patterns resembling those of a younger child or using simplified language.
  • Difficulty in listening and following instructions.
  • Struggles with changes in routine or unfamiliar situations.
  • Challenges in understanding words or concepts.

Qualifications for Special Education in Public Schools

  • Disability Requirement: The student must have a disability as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Need for Special Education Services: The disability must necessitate special education services to enable the student to benefit from education.

Early Childhood Intervention and School Transitions

​​Early Childhood Intervention and seamless school transitions play a pivotal role in ensuring that children with special needs receive the support they need from an early age to continue to thrive as they transition into different educational settings.

Early Childhood Intervention (ECI):

  • Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is the state and federal program for children aged birth to three. ECI is funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In Texas, ECI is managed by Texas Health & Human Services (HHSC).
  • Family-centered services are provided at no cost to parents, typically conducted in the child’s home environment.
  • ECI case managers facilitate access to specialized services and resources to support the child’s development.
  • Specialized and licensed providers collaborate to create personalized plans tailored to each child’s needs.

Transition to Public School

  • At age three, ECI assists in transitioning the child to public school, preschool, Head Start, or other appropriate programs.
  • Transition planning ensures a seamless shift with no gaps in services, facilitating continued support for the child’s growth and development.

What is an ARD?

ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal) meetings and additional special education resources are available to support children with diverse learning needs.

  • ARD stands for Admission, Review, and Dismissal.
  • ARD is a meeting to discuss and plan the IEP (individualized education program) for students with special needs.
  • The ARD ensures students receive appropriate special education services tailored to their unique needs.
  • The ARD meeting determines specific services, accommodations, and goals.

Understanding IEP

Understanding Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) is essential for parents navigating the landscape of special education services for children with unique learning needs.

Benefits of IEP and Special Education Programs:
  • IEP Definition: IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, which is a personalized plan developed for students with disabilities to outline their specific educational goals, accommodations, and services.
  • Legal Mandate: IEPs required by federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for students with disabilities that would benefit from special education
  • Fostering an Inclusive Environment: Students with learning challenges often thrive in mainstream classrooms, fostering a sense of belonging and motivation among peers.
  • Long-term Impact:  IEPs tailor education to unique needs, fostering independence, confidence, and academic success
  • Comprehensive Support: IEPs benefit all students, promoting inclusivity, collaboration, and personalized learning

Understanding Neurodiversity

The identification process for neurodiversity, autism, and special services is available to support children in their educational journey.

  • Definition: Neurodiversity acknowledges differences in how people’s brains function, recognizing that there is no singular “correct” way for a brain to operate.
  •  Embracing Differences: Neurodiversity celebrates the range of perceptions and responses to the world, encouraging acceptance and appreciation of diverse cognitive experiences.

Identification of Autism and Special Services:

  • The federal IDEA law ensures that students with disabilities, including autism, receive Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) personalized to their needs.
  • Texas public schools provide specialized services for over 70,000 students with autism annually, comprising over 13% of all students receiving special education services.
  • Specific strategies for supporting students with autism are mandated in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including research-based practices outlined in the Autism Supplement.
Strengths of Neurodiverse Individuals
  • Unique Perspectives: Neurodiverse individuals often approach situations from unconventional angles, fostering innovative problem-solving and thinking “outside the box.”
  • Specialized Skills: Many neurodiverse individuals excel in specific areas, such as computer programming, mathematics, creativity, music, and visual-spatial skills.
  •  Freedom from Social Norms: Neurodiverse individuals may experience less pressure to conform to societal norms, allowing for greater authenticity and self-expression.
  • Attention to Detail: Individuals within the neurodiverse community often demonstrate a keen eye for detail, which can be advantageous in various fields, including design and art.


Advantages of Special Education:

  • Enhanced learning: Students with learning challenges thrive in regular classrooms, promoting eagerness to learn.
  • Long-term benefits: Special education tools foster independence, reduce depression, and boost self-esteem throughout life.
  • Benefits for all: Special education supports not only students with special needs but enriches the learning experience for everyone in inclusive classrooms.

Program Spotlight: Special Education

Here’s a quick video of what students learn in Special Education Programs. Traditional public schools provide many different types of special education services.

Special Education News

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