In Delaware, 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. These five steps can help you get started in finding information about the special-education process in Delaware and making the contacts you'll need.
1. Download a copy of "Parents Can Be the Key: A Handbook on Rights and Responsibilities in Special Education for Parents of Children with Disabilities," part of the Special Education Toolkit from the Parent Information Center of Delaware, and read it to get a good overview of special education in Delaware, including how to get services for your child. Also helpful is "Special Education Rights of Parents and Children" from the Delaware Department of Education Exceptional Children and Early Childhood Education Group.
2. In Delaware, the process of referring a child age three through twenty-one for special education is called Child Find. Schools have the responsibility to identify students in need of special services, and parents can initiate that process by requesting an educational evaluation in writing. You can download a sample letter to use when requesting an educational evaluation; send it to your child's school principal or to the person in charge of special education in your district. If you're not sure who to contact, use the list of school district Child Find phone numbers, call the number for your district, and ask who your letter should be addressed to.
3. Your child will be evaluated to determine whether he or she is eligible for special-education services. In addition to the booklets in step 1 above, download a copy of "Educational Evaluation" from the Parent Information Center of Delaware to learn how you can be part of the process.
4. If your child is found eligible, the school will plan an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for him or her. Learn more about IEPs and other special-education terms and offerings from the Special-Education FAQ on this About.com site. Wondering what an IEP looks like? Download a sample from the Department of Education site.
5. During the evaluation and IEP process, and throughout your child's educational career, take advantage of the assistance offered by the Parent Information Center of Delaware, a parent advocacy organization that offers training and information for families of children with special needs. Check with your IEP team or special-education director to find out if there's a local parent group in your district as well.