In Louisiana, 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 Louisiana and making the contacts you'll need.
1. Familiarize yourself with the special-education process in Louisiana with resources on the Louisiana Department of Education site, including an overview of services offered and details for specific disabilities. You can also download "A Good IDEA for Louisiana: A Guide for Parents and Students About Special Education Services," a friendly and accessible booklet from the Louisiana Parent Training and Information Center.
2. In Louisiana, the process of referring a child from birth through high school for special services is called Child Find. Schools have the responsibility to identify students in need of special-education services, and parents can initiate that process by contacting the local school board office and asking to speak to the Child Find Coordinator. If your child is not yet in school and you don't know who to contact, the Louisiana School Directory on the Department of Education site can help.
3. After the referral is made, your child will be evaluated to determine whether he or she is eligible for special-education services. You can get an idea of the procedural safeguards from an annotated version on the Wrightslaw site that outlines your rights throughout the process.
4. If your child is found eligible for special-education services, the school will plan an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child. Learn more about IEPs and other special-education terms and offerings from the Special-Education FAQ on this About.com site. Wondering what goes into an IEP? Download "Louisiana’s IEP Handbook for Students with Exceptionalities" from the Department of Education site for a detailed view.
5. During the evaluation and IEP process, and throughout your child's educational career, take advantage of the assistance offered by the Louisiana Parent Training and Information Center, a parent advocacy organization that offers support and workshops for families of children with special needs.