In Oregon, 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 Oregon and making the contacts you'll need.
1. Familiarize yourself with the special-education process in Oregon by reading "Special Education: A Guide for Parents & Advocates," a publication of FACT Oregon and Disability Rights Oregon, and "Oregon Administrative Rules for Special Education," downloadable from the Oregon Department of Education site. On the Department of Education site, you can also read more about the eligibility categories for special education to find out how your child may be classified and what the eligibility requirements will be.
2. In Oregon, 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 teacher or principal, or the special-education department of the school district. If your child is not yet in school and you're not sure who to contact, you can download an Oregon School Directory from the Oregon Department of Education site and look for contact numbers for the special-education supervisor for your district.
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 in Oregon? Download some sample forms 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 FACT Oregon, 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 a "Mediation Handbook" that can guide you.