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Understanding the Special Education Process

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If your child has a disability, navigating the special education process – as well as all of the terms and acronyms used in special education – can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. The teachers and administrators at your child’s school, with support from staff in the Special Education office, are committed to helping parents and guardians understand and have a voice in the process, to ensure that your student receives the services needed to thrive in school.

Referral and Identification

The Bristol Warren Regional School Department has been working to develop a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Framework for identifying children’s needs and providing intervention and support services prior to referral to special education.

If you have concerns that early intervening services such as MTSS have not sufficiently helped your child and/or you suspect that they may have a disability and need special education services, a referral to the Evaluation Team can be made at your child’s school. The Evaluation Team reviews referrals related to the special education process. In Bristol Warren, the person making the referral to the Evaluation Team completes the Evaluation Team Referral Form and submits it to the building administrator or special education coordinator. Referrals to special education may be submitted by parents/guardians, school staff, or anyone who has a vested interest in your child. For students who are aged 3-5 years, referrals may come from Child Outreach Screenings or Early Intervention.

Once the Evaluation Team has completed its assessments, the school will schedule an eligibility meeting. The school will notify you in writing about the date, time, and location of the meeting so that you can meaningfully participate. The Evaluation Team is composed of Bristol Warren School Department professionals who are knowledgeable about the suspected area(s) of disability, one of whom should have either assessed or observed the student. During the eligibility determination meeting, evaluators will review the completed evaluations and the Evaluation Team will decide if the student meets the qualifications under the IDEA as a student with a disability.  In order to be determined eligible as a student with a disability under the IDEA, the following specific criteria must be met: (1) the child has a disability (2) that adversely impacts them in the classroom, and (3) they require specially designed instruction from a special educator.

At the eligibility meeting, each evaluator will review the results of the evaluation that they completed.  You will be given an opportunity to share any pertinent information and express your thoughts and concerns and seek clarification. Once the evaluations are reviewed, the Evaluation Team will determine, through consensus, whether your child meets the specific criteria required to be found eligible as a child with a disability and in need of special education services.

There are two possible outcomes for the eligibility meeting that the Evaluation Team may decide:

  • Your child meets the three specific criteria for one of the 14 disability categories, and an IEP meeting will be scheduled within fifteen (15) school days.

  • Your child does not qualify for special education services at this time and may be referred for consideration under Section 504.


If your child is referred to the Evaluation Team (ET) for evaluation, the team will review all pertinent data to determine if further evaluation is needed to assist with determining if your child has a disability.  If your child is determined to require further evaluation, evaluations will be completed within sixty (60) calendar days of receiving your authorization to conduct evaluations.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Upon reviewing the results of evaluations, the Evaluation Team will determine if your child is eligible as a student with a disability who requires specialized instruction and/or related services from a special educator and/or related service provider under one of the eligibility categories.  If your child is eligible for special education services an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which outlines the plan for delivering services and measuring student growth, will be developed by the IEP team. The IEP team consists of the parents/guardians, a Local Education Agency (LEA) representative, a special education teacher, a general education teacher, and other related services staff as needed. During the IEP process, annual goals are developed to help the student progress in the general education curriculum. Parents must give approval prior to placement, in order to begin receiving special education and/or related services.

IEP Review

Your child's IEP will be reviewed by the IEP team, at least annually, to determine progress in meeting established goals and to determine new goals as appropriate, along with continued eligibility.

Rhode Island Procedural Safeguards

This notice is the Rhode Island model form for explaining parents' rights under special education law and regulations. Federal and state regulations require schools to provide parents/guardians outlining a full explanation of your rights in special education.