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Special Education in California

Q&A with Dennise Goldberg, President, Gold Standard Advocates

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Dennise Goldberg
Photo courtesy of Dennise Goldberg

In California, children three years of age and older who need significant modifications in their educational programs may be eligible for special-education services through their school district. I asked Dennise Goldberg, president of Gold Standard Advocates and SpecialEducationAdvisor.com in Chatsworth, to give us a quick overview of special education in California and suggest some things parents can do to get started.

Who should a parent in California contact about having a child classified for special education?

Special-education services are provided by local school districts in California for children with a disability who qualify, from the age of three up through the age of twenty-one. For preschool-aged students or children not already attending a public school, parents should contact their local school district’s special-education division. If a child is already attending a local public school, the parents should submit a written request for a special-education assessment to the school office. When submitting the request for special-education assessment, ask for a date-stamped copy for your records. The school has fifteen days from receipt of the parent’s request to provide an assessment plan and sixty days from receiving a parent’s signature on the assessment plan to hold an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. [Find contact information for your child's school and district.]

What does special education look like in California?

Special education is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), California education code, and policies established by Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPA). While each SELPA has its own policies, procedures, and IEP forms, they are all required to follow IDEA and state law. Children may receive special-education services, via an IEP, if they meet the eligibility criteria of one of thirteen disability categories and because of that disability need special education and related services. The disability alone is not enough to receive special-education services: the child must also show need. The IEP must be designed to meet the child’s unique needs, provide special-education and related services, and be delivered in the Least Restrictive Environment. This means that special education will vary greatly from child to child based on their needs and what is the appropriate method for educating that individual child. [Download "Special Education Rights of Parents and Children."]

Do you have any advice about special education in California?

Educate yourself on how to become an advocate for your child. Start by finding your local SELPA and reviewing their policies and procedures. Next learn your rights, what types of questions you should be asking, IEP tips, and what types of services are available through an IEP. Also, California’s Family Empowerment Centers are a great resource for finding support and education.

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About Dennise Goldberg: Dennise Goldberg is president of Gold Standard Advocates, Inc. and SpecialEducationAdvisor.com. Gold Standard Advocates is a team of paid special-education advocates in Southern California who help parents attain special-education services for children with disabilities from the public school system. While Gold Standard Advocates are not attorneys, they are extremely helpful in IEP meetings to assist in the negotiation process between parents and schools. To contact Gold Standard Advocates, Inc., call 818-993-3011 or fill out our contact form. SpecialEducationAdvisor.com is a community of parents, educators, and special-education service providers dedicated to helping families with special-education-needs children understand their special-education rights and receive appropriate special-education services.

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