Do I qualify for special education?

What to do if you believe that you may have a learning disability or other disability that affects your learning or ability to do well in school.

You and your Education Rights Holder (ERH) should:

1)    Request in Writing for a Special Education Evaluation. The school must provide your ERH with an “assessment plan” to be signed within 15 days of the request (or the school must provide written notice that they refuse to assess you and explain why). By signing the assessment plan, you and your ERH are agreeing to an evaluation. The school must perform an evaluation and conduct a formal IEP meeting within 60 days of their receipt of your signed assessment plan.

2)    Attend the IEP Meeting and Help Create the Plan. The IEP meeting is held at the school with a team of people, called the “IEP Team”, who should either know you, be qualified to provide services to you, or be able to interpret and answer questions about the assessment. The IEP is a document that will be created at the meeting. It is the educational program that is specially designed to meet your unique needs. It works like a contract and must be implemented after everyone agrees that it is the right plan for you.

NOTE: If you’re 16 years old or are transitioning into independent living, post-secondary education (i.e. college or vocational training), or employment, it is very important that an Individualized Transition Plan (“ITP”) is also developed at the IEP meeting. The ITP should establish goals for you, and may include services such as help creating a résumé or job training.

At the end of the IEP meeting, the school site must provide you with a written copy of the IEP document for you to review. You and your education rights holder must agree to and sign the plan before it can be implemented. You don’t have to sign the IEP plan during or right after the meeting. You can take it home and think about it if you want to!

3)    Follow up after the IEP Meeting. If you believe that the school is not implementing the IEP, your ERH has the right to file a complaint with the California Department of Education (CDE). If you believe that the IEP is not helping you, your education rights holder has the right to request another IEP meeting. The IEP is created and reviewed at least once a year at the Annual IEP meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to review the goals that were set for you, check if the goals were met, and update the goals for the next year.  For more information about special education, please click here to get help from Public Counsel or check out our website at for our “Special Education” brochure.

If you or your ERH is having trouble getting you the services you need at school, and you have an open dependency or delinquency case, talk to your attorney at court! They can request that a free education attorney, called a 317(e) attorney, be appointed to help you.

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