How to qualify for services

Who qualifies for special education services?

  • Children with most kinds of disabilities that affect how they can learn in school

  • This can be a physical or learning disability, a developmental delay, or autism

  • This can include issues in any of these areas: physical, learning, social, behavioral, medical, communication, or developmental

  • Massachusetts residents between the ages of 3 and 22

How do you know if your child qualifies?

  • Click on "Eligibility Requirements" below to see if these apply to your child

  • They will get an evaluation from the school system to find out for sure. We'll tell you about that soon!

 

Click the boxes below to learn more:

To qualify for special education services and an IEP in Massachusetts, all of the following criteria must be met: 1. The student must have one of the following disabilities: autism, developmental delay, intellectual delay, sensory disability such as deafness (hearing), blindness (vision), or both, neurological, emotional, communication, speech, physical, specific learning, or health-related disorder. 2. The student is not making effective progress in school. 3. The lack of progress is a result of the student

To see the definitions of each type of disability, click here: Disability Definitions. (It will open in a new tab or window on your screen.)

The evaluation and eligibility meeting will help decide if your child meets these criteria. If so, they'll qualify for special education services. Depending on what kind of support they need, the school will work with you to create either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.

We will tell you more about these!

 

Sources: MA DOE, Federation for Children with Special Needs

Developmental Delay is when your child is not doing certain things that kids usually do at their age.

There are different kinds of development, and different milestones: things a child usually can do at a certain age.

Kids learn things at different ages, so there is a big range of what is "normal". But an evaluation can tell if your child may need some help to catch up.

Here are some examples of different kinds of milestones:

  • Physical things like holding up their head at 3 months old, or sitting up at 9 months.

  • Cognitive (thinking and learning) skills, like imitating a movement at 1 year old, or knowing some body parts at age 2.

  • Communication skills, like saying "ba-ba-ba-ba"at 9 months, or waving "bye-bye"at age 1.

  • Social and Emotional skills, like laughing at 6 months, or showing affection for caregivers at age 1.

Click here for more about Developmental Milestones. (It will open in a new tab on your computer.) You can look up what your child should be doing at a certain age.

You can also click the link at the bottom of the page to download this 4-page fact sheet.

 

Source: CDC, U.S. Office of Special Education Programs

Autism is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

This name reflects that there is a wide spectrum - or range - of how severely a child may be affected, and in what ways. It can be very different in different kids.

Autism has to do with brain growth and development. It can affect people's social interactionscommunication, and behaviors.

People with autism often have trouble relating to people in ways that we consider typical.

They may have issues like these:

  • trouble expressing themselves or reading the expressions of other people

  • repetitive physical behaviors

  • sensitivity to things like noise or textures of clothing

  • needing to have a very structured routine, and can get upset easily

Autism does not limit how smart kids are!

Children with autism can be very smart and talented, sometimes in very specific and impressive ways.

Autism can look very different from one child to the next. Some kids have trouble with things like challenging behaviors, communicating verbally, and forming social relationships. Each child will have their own strengths and challengesAutism can look very different from one child to the next. Some kids have trouble with things like challenging behaviors, communicating verbally, and forming social relationships. Each child will have their own strengths and challenges.

Sources: Interactive Autism Network, Autism Speaks

Keep reading and we'll tell you how to talk to the school about your concerns and see what kind of help your child needs!

 

Source: MA DOE, Family TIES of MA, Autism Speaks

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