In Mississippi, 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 Mississippi and making the contacts you'll need.
1. Familiarize yourself with the special-education process in Mississippi with resources on the Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center site, including "How Does My Child Get Special Education Services?" "The IEP Meeting," and "Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)." For a look at state special-education regulations, download "State Policies Regarding Children with Disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 2004" from the Department of Education site.
2. In Mississippi, 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 your child's teacher or school principal. If your child is not yet in school and you're not sure who to contact, you can use the map of school districts on the Mississippi Department of Education site, find the site for your district, and look for information about special services or district contact information.
3. After the referral is made, your child will be evaluated to determine whether he or she is eligible for special-education services. Download a copy of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards to understand 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 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 Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center, a parent advocacy organization that offers support and workshops for families of children with special needs. If you ultimately have a dispute with the school about the services your child needs and how they should be delivered, the Department of Education site has forms for complaints, due process, and mediation to download on its page for parents.