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Special Education Process for School-Aged Children

Phase 1 — Referral

The process of receiving special education services begins with a referral. A referral may be made by anyone who suspects that a child may have special needs, a delay in development, or a disability.

For school age children who are enrolled in HCPSS, the referral process can be initiated by speaking to your child’s teacher or school principal.

For school age children who are enrolled in private or religiously affiliated school in Howard County, whether residing in Howard County or another jurisdiction, the referral process can be initiated by:

  • Calling the Child Find Program at the County Diagnostic Center at 410–313–7046
  • Writing to:

    County Diagnostic Center

    5451 Beaverkill Road

    Columbia, MD 21044

Identification is the process used to decide if a child may have a disability and, therefore, need assessments.

An HCPSS student who is suspected of having a disability is referred to the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The IEP team meets to receive the referral and to review existing data, information from the parent, previously implemented instructional interventions and strategies, current classroom-based assessments, and observations by teachers and related service providers. Based on this information, the IEP team determines the need for assessment.

When a student in a private or religiously affiliated school receives a referral, the parents are asked to complete a Parent Referral form, Parent/Guardian Questionnaire, and Educational Report form. Written permission is obtained for HCPSS staff to review the student’s records, reports from any specialists who have worked with the student, and Educational Reports completed by the student’s current teachers. Parents are asked to send the requested information to:

  • The principal of the student’s neighborhood school for Howard County residents or
  • A school near the private or religiously-affiliated school residents (designated by the County Diagnostic Center) for non Howard County residents.

The identification process is completed at the designated school.

Phase 2 — Evaluation

If assessments are recommended because a child is suspected to have a disability, the school staff obtains written permission from the parent and completes an educational assessment and other assessments as needed.

After the assessments are completed, the IEP team reviews the student’s records and results of the assessments, and completes the Evaluation Report to determine eligibility for special education and related services. If appropriate, the IEP team verifies the existence of a disability and identifies staff members who shall participate in the development of the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Copies of the assessment reports, the Evaluation Report, and a written record of the recommendations made by the IEP team are provided to the parent.

The Evaluation Report and determination of eligibility for special education shall be completed within 60 calendar days from the date of the signed permission to test or 90 days from the receipt of the signed written referral, whichever comes first. For those children eligible for services, an Individualized Education Program is developed.

Phase 3 — Individualized Education Program (IEP)

If the child is determined to be a child with a disability, an IEP is developed by the school staff with input from the parents within 30 days of the meeting to review assessment results. The IEP team reviews the IEP, identifies services needed to implement the IEP, and considers options for the provision of services in the least restrictive environment.