In Colorado, 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 Shirley Swope, a parent advisor at the PEAK Parent Center in Colorado Springs, to give us a quick overview of special education in Colorado and suggest some things parents can do to get started.
Who should a parent in Colorado contact about having a child classified for special education?Every school district has a responsibility to locate and screen and/or evaluate any child in their district that might have a disability. This is the Child Find process. Parents can call their local school district and contact the Child Find coordinator, or contact PEAK Parent Center. Parents can also obtain a diagnosis or an evaluation in the private sector. School districts must consider these evaluations. PEAK Parent Center's parent advisors are happy to help explain this process.
What does special education look like in Colorado?Special education varies from district to district. Colorado is a "local control" state, and districts have different policies in providing special-education services. Colorado has the full continuum of services. Special-education services should be based on the student's individual need and delivered in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) with the use of supplementary aids and services.
Do you have any advice about special education in Colorado?My advice about researching special education services in Colorado is to have a clear and specific idea about your child's needs and strengths. Ask questions, and express your desire for placement based on the law and your child's needs. Have a copy of your child's current IEP with you when you visit a new school district. School districts must provide "comparable service" for a student who is enrolled with a current IEP. Also, ask parents and advocates in the state about their experiences with the school district you are considering. A good place to ask those questions is Parent to Parent, a statewide online parent support group.
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About PEAK Parent Center: PEAK Parent Center is Colorado's federally designated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) serving the entire state of Colorado. The mission of PEAK Parent Center is to provide training, information and technical assistance to equip families of children birth through twenty-six including all disability conditions with strategies to advocate successfully for their children. As a result of PEAK's services to families and professionals, children and adults with disabilities will live rich, active lives participating as full members of their schools and communities. Visit our site at www.peakparent.org/ and please let us know how we can assist you. Please email PEAK at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (719) 531-9400. We try to respond within 24 hours.