Best Practices in Outreach

Six smiling people in a line, their arms thrown wide in greeting.April 2017

The Parent Center network shares a common list of priority topics from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. This Hub page focuses on the priority topic of best practices in outreach. It’s divided into the following sections:


Why These Resources?

Dozens of documents and resources on outreach were identified by a collaborative of Parent Center directors and coordinators. The team then painstakingly reviewed each one in terms of its quality and usefulness, as well as its relevance to Parent Centers. This page is the result and lists only those resources rated by the review team as being of high quality, usefulness, and relevance to Parent Centers.

Deep appreciation goes out to the review teameach of these people shared their time and expertise to ensure that Parent Centers have top-quality outreach materials that are also well-suited to the purpose and mission of Parent Centers.

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Culture Matters

Hispanic & African-American

Culture Counts: Engaging Black and Latino Parents of Young Children in Family Support Programs  (pdf, 1 mb)
An overview of family support programs, identifies effective features and strategies for reaching and engaging black and Latino families to support young children’s development. Synthesizes research on parent engagement and potential barriers with recommendations for designing, adapting, and evaluating culturally-relevant family support programs and services.

Reaching & Engaging with Hispanic Communities: A Research-Informed Communication Guide for Nonprofits, Policymakers, and Funders (pdf, 3.2 mb)
Focusing on the Hispanic community and the socioeconomic struggles related to a majority of that population—serves to help service providers and educators serve Latino children and their families by building communication strategies.

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Native American

Cultural Awareness and Connecting with Native Communities (doc, 2.87 mb)
Written for Parent Centers and offering information on Tribal etiquette and culture. Includes suggestions for connecting with Native communities in ways that enhance communication and connectedness.

Culture Card: A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness  (pdf, 1 mb)
General briefing to enhance cultural competence while providing services to American Indian/Alaska Native communities. Thorough topic breakdowns ensure “Five Areas of Cultural Competence” can be followed per information provided.

Introducing Your Parent Center to American Indian Communities (doc, 2.87 mb)
Written expressly for Parent Centers, suggests several “first steps” in approaching and building relationships or strengthening partnerships with Native American and Alaskan Native communities within regions served by Parent Centers.

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General Multicultural

Achieving Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Information Dissemination Activities (pdf, 171 kb)
Lays out a process for the development phase of new publications, helping authors consider cultural and linguistic differences and representations. Guidelines are intended as a point of reference and stimulate careful consideration for anyone writing or producing information for any audience.

Building Partnerships: Key Considerations with Engaging Underserved Communities (pdf, 1.3 mb)
Geared specifically toward guiding MHSA outreach and addressing health disparities—introduces guiding principles of community engagement with underserved communities and suggests specific strategies for County Mental Health Departments to nurture sustained partnerships with communities.

Culture Brokering: Providing Culturally Competent Rehabilitation Services to Foreign–Born Persons from CIRRIE (online monograph)
Assists users in understanding the culture-brokering model and how to implement it with foreign-born consumers. Provides guides for working within this framework, discusses cross-cultural communication, provides examples and recommendations related to techniques for culturally appropriate communication with foreign-born consumers.

Minority Parent & Community Engagement: Best Practices and Policy Recommendations for Closing the Gaps in Student Achievement (pdf, 605 kb)
Best for PTI directors—looks at improving student achievement and helping close the achievement gap by increasing the inclusion and engagement of parents of color in their children’s education. Includes general practices for engaging minority parents and successful strategies for strengthening parent engagement.

National Center for Cultural Competence (Website)
Under the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, the NCCC is dedicated to supporting cultural competence with a focus on health care settings. Well-reviewed articles and resources inform policy for a broad audience. Information on various pages is recommended for Parent Center leadership training staff on cultural and linguistic competence.

Open Doors for Multicultural Families Professional Webinars: Working Effectively with Diverse Youth & Families in Transition webinar training (Webinars)
Five webinars focusing on families of children with special health care needs and disabilities; includes handouts and checklists. Some data specific to Washington State, but great range of topics covered. Issues include interpreters, transition planning, person centered planning, and collaborative partnerships.

Promising Practices In Cultural Competence: Open Doors for Multicultural Families (pdf, 637 KB)
Brief on how Open Doors for Multicultural Families has implemented culturally competent practices and reached widely diverse clientele. Good set of “essential elements” and “lessons learned” offered. Provides fact sheet and many examples of best practices.

Using Outreach to Increase Access (Web page)
Online toolkit demonstrates how to implement an outreach service to expand access to health services, practices, and products. Examples answer the questions of what outreach is, when is it needed, and give suggestions of common methods of outreach and creative and nontraditional ideas for implementation. Also touches upon cultural awareness.

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Using Technology in Outreach

A Consumers Guide to Case Management Systems
Helps tech users decide which case management system is right for their organization’s needs and budget. Description of the process and guidance through evaluation of listed systems is adaptable for various systems a PTI is looking at.

Crash Course in Infographics (pdf, 2.4 mb)
Guide with information, best practices, and tips and tools on creating successful infographics. PTIs can use for intra-organization communication and communicating with stakeholders. Also helpful for producing flyers, web content, and in learning opportunities.

Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services  (pdf, 7.4 mb)
Discusses data revealing four core elements common to organizations who use technology to successfully innovate program delivery and improve how constituents are served. Helpful for nonprofits in data collecting/analysis efforts and use of technology to expand efforts.

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Thanks to the Review Team

A team of Parent Center directors and coordinators tackled the task of identifying outreach resources of top quality, usefulness, and relevance to Parent Centers. The CPIR is enormously grateful to the workgroup members who contributed their time and expertise to making this a top-quality resource page. Specifically, we send our thanks to:

  • Andrea Bridges, Project Coordinator: The Branch/MPTAC (WA)
  • Kelly Henderson, Executive Director: Formed Families Forward (VA)
  • Andrea Mann, South Central Regional Parent Mentor: Michigan Alliance for Families (MI)
  • Miho Onaka, Program Coordinator: Open Doors for Multicultural Families (WA)
  • Nelsinia Ramos, Parent Services Coordinator: WI FACETS; Multicultural Specialist: R4PTAC (WI)
  • Esperanza Reyes, Parent Consultant & Project Coordinator: Utah Parent Center (UT)
  • Judy Wiley, Program Manager: NAPTAC (NM)

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Center for Future Planning

Useful to: Parents Centers and service providers working with families of young adults and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The Center for Future Planning, a resource provided by the Arc, encourages adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families to plan for the future. The Center provides information and assistance to individuals with I/DD, their family members and friends, professionals who support them, and other members of the community on areas such as person-centered planning, decision-making, housing options, and financial planning. The site includes such information and features as:

  • Future Planning 101 (learn about person-centered planning)
  • Build Your Plan Tool (an online guided process that enables families to create accounts and begin to build their plans within the Center, with the main focus of the plan being the person with I/DD’s interests, preferences, and skills)
  • See What Others Have Planned (personal stories)
  • Get help for someone with I/DD who has an urgent need  for temporary or permanent support

Visit the Center at:

Requesting Mediation

Foto de muchos lapices. Lots of pencils.From our series of model letters…because sometimes
you need to communicate with the school
about your child’s education.

Links updated, March 2017


This short publication comes from a much longer Parent’s Guide that focuses on communicating with your child’s school via letter writing. There are times when you, as a parent, may want to communicate in writing with your child’s school about some problem or concern with your child’s education or well-being. Because the Parent’s Guide is so long, we decided it would be more convenient to our readers if each of the letters discussed in the guide was also available separately, to make reading and printing individual letters easier.

This page presents a model letter or email you might write to request mediation as an approach to resolving a dispute with your child’s school.



When would I make a request for mediation?

Anytime you have a serious disagreement with the school and you feel it isn’t getting resolved, you may request mediation. In mediation, you and school personnel sit down with an impartial third person (called a mediator), talk openly about the areas where you disagree, and try to reach an agreement. Mediation is voluntary, so both parties must agree to meet with a mediator.

There are benefits to mediation, both for you and for the school. One of the chief benefits is that mediation allows you and the school to state your concerns and work together to reach a solution that focuses on the needs of the student and is acceptable to both of you.

For more information on mediation, visit CADRE, the Consortium for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education, at:

We also offer detailed information about mediation under IDEA, beginning at:

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General letter-writing tips

When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and state the answers in your letter:

  •  Why am I writing?
  • What are my specific concerns?
  • What are my questions?
  • What would I like the person to do about this situation?
  • What sort of response do I want: a letter, a meeting, a phone call, or something else?

Each letter you write should include the following basic information:

  • Put the date on your letter.
  • Give your child’s full name and the name of your child’s main teacher or current class placement.
  • Say what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Keep it simple.
  • Give your address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.
  • Always end your letter with a “thank you.”

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 What are some other tips to keep in mind?

You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and say “yes.” Remember, this person may not know you, your child, or your child’s situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without letting anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions creep in. Some letter-writing tips include:

  • After you write your first draft, put the letter aside for a day or two. Then look at it again and revise it with fresh eyes.
  • Read your letter as though you are the person receiving it. Is your request clear? Have you included the important facts? Does your letter ramble on and on? Is it likely to offend, or is the tone businesslike?
  • Have someone else read your letter for you. Is your reason for writing clear? Can the reader tell what you are asking for? Would the reader say “yes” if he or she received this letter? Can your letter be improved?
  • Use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Or ask someone reliable to edit your letter before you send it.
  • Keep a copy for your records.

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Model Letter

Today’s Date (include month, day, and year)

Your Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number

Name of person to whom you’re writing
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear (Person’s name),

My son/daughter, (child’s name), currently attends (name of school) and is in the (___) grade in (teacher’s name) class. I am writing to inform you that the school and I are in disagreement concerning (BRIEFLY state what the disagreement is about). We have been unsuccessful in resolving this dispute, and I am requesting mediation so that we may resolve our differences.

I would like the mediation to be done as soon as possible. Please let me know when this can be arranged and send me a copy of the school’s guidelines on mediation. My daytime telephone number is (give your phone number). Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Your name

cc: your child’s principal
your child’s teacher

Note: The “cc:” at the bottom of the letter means you are sending a copy of your letter to the people listed after the cc.

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Would you like to read another letter?

Discussing a problem

Requesting a copy of your child’s records

Requesting an evaluation for special education services>

Requesting an independent evaluation

Requesting a meeting to review your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Requesting a change in your child’s placement

Informing the school that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense

Requesting prior written notice

Requesting mediation to resolve a conflict
(you’re already here!)

Requesting a due process hearing  to resolve a conflict

Filing a complaint with the State  to resolve a conflict

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Buzz from the Hub | April 2017, Issue 1

4 teenagers in school hallwayBuzz from the Hub, March 2017, Issue 1

Spotlight on: Working with Youth with Disabilities

Keep your best wishes close to your heart
and watch what happens.

~Tony DeLiso.

April greetings to all! This issue of the Buzz brings you news of several disability-specific fact sheets and articles you can share with the families you serve, and spotlights resources for informing and continuing your Parent Center work with youth with disabilities.

All our best to you, as always,

The CPIR Team | Debra, Lisa, Jessica, Ana-Maria, and Myriam


Updated Fact Sheets on AD/HD in English and Spanish

CPIR has updated its fact sheet on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). Share with the families you serve (and with educators!). Also newly updated in Spanish.

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On Autism Spectrum Disorder

Sharing an Autism Diagnosis With Family and Friends
This article offers suggestions to help parents when explaining their child’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to grandparents and other relatives and close friends, to help significant others become effective allies. From the Child Mind Institute.

Modules | Evidence-based Practices to Support Children and Youth with ASD
AFIRM Modules are designed to help you learn the step-by-step process of planning for, using, and monitoring an evidence-based practice with learners with ASD from birth to 22 years of age. There are quite a few online modules of interest to Parent Centers, educators, and families, including functional behavior assessment, prompting, reinforcement, social skills training, and self-management. From the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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On Working with Youth

Video | The Power of the Adolescent Brain
This new video features the most recent research on adolescent brain development, functioning, and capacity. It’s accompanied by resources for practitioners working with families and youth.

Are High School Students with Disabilities Prepared for Life After School?
A new, two-volume report (funded by the U.S. Department of Education) explores the transition experiences of students with disabilities. Volume 1 of the report compares students with disabilities to their typically developing peers. Volume 2 compares students across disability categories.

Module | Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections (Part 2): Transition and Reentry to School and Community
Hot off the press from the IRIS Center, this training module addresses considerations and recommendations for transitioning youth from juvenile corrections facilities back to community, school, and workplace settings.

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Latest from the Department of Education:

Significant Disproportionality: Essential Questions and Answers

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has released Significant Disproportionality: Essential Questions and Answers (March 2017), which provides guidance on the Equity in IDEA Final Regulation released in December 2016. OSERS has also released a Model State Timeline outlining different streams of work and the timelines that states should consider as they implement the new rule.


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Logo of the Center for Center for Parent Information and Resources

The CPIR hopes that you’ve found useful and relevant resources listed in this month’s Buzz from the Hub. Please feel free to write to the editor, Lisa Küpper, at to suggest the types of resources you’d like to see in the future. CPIR is listening! Your input is extremely valuable to helping us to craft newsletters that support your work with families.

Debra, Myriam, Jessica, Ana-Maria, and Lisa
The CPIR Team


This eNewsletter from the CPIR is copyright-free.
We encourage you to share it with others.

Center for Parent Information and Resources
c/o SPAN, Inc.
35 Halsey St., Fourth Floor
Newark, NJ 07102

Subscribe to the Buzz from the Hub.
See past issues of the Buzz.

Publication of this eNewsletter is made possible through Cooperative Agreement H328R130014 between OSEP and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or by the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

AMP’s Top 10 Tips for Engaging with Young People

(2016) | Useful to: Parent Centers and other service organizations who wish to include youth and young adults in their programs and services.

The best way to know what young people want is to ask them! Young people want to—and should—be partners in the design and implementation of research and in their treatment planning and delivery. Young people won’t participate in programs or services that they find disempowering and stigmatizing, so treat them with respect, with dignity, and as partners rather than patients.

AMP’s Top 10 Tips for Engaging with Youth People is presented in infographic form, where each tip includes examples of what to stay, what NOT to say, and why. It’s 4 pages long and very easy to read. Access the publication at:

Note: AMP stands for Achieve My Plan and is a  project at the Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children’s Mental Health, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.

Best Practices for Increasing Meaningful Youth Participation in Collaborative Team Planning

(2016) | Useful to: Parent Centers and other service organizations who wish to include youth and young adults in their programs and services.

A critical element in developing any program or research project is the perspective of the populations it will affect. For young people on the path to adulthood and self-sufficiency, this is even more important, because they are still learning to become independent and shaping ideas about who they are, what they believe in, and what they want from life.

This 8-page guidebook describes best practices for including youth with personal experience in all aspects of your programs—from planning and research design, to advisory boards, to peer and recovery support services. Its sections include:

  • Organizational Support for Participation
  • Before the Meeting: Help the Youth Prepare
  • During the Meeting:Create a Safe Environment
  • During the Meeting: Ensure the Youth is Part of the Team
  • Measuring Participation and Empowerment

Access the guidebook at:

Best Practices for Increasing Meaningful Youth Participation in Collaborative Team Planning is a product of the Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children’s Mental Health at Portland State University, with input from AMP advisors and other youth and adults who are part of planning teams around the nation. (AMP stands for Achieve My Plan.)



Youth M.O.V.E. National

(2017) |  Useful to youth with and without disabilities who are interested in connecting with each other and with promoting the youth voice in decision making.

Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) is a youth-led national peer advocacy organization committed to promoting the growth and development of youth who are involved in mental health, juvenile justice, education, and child welfare systems.

Youth M.O.V.E. has more than 50 chapters across the U.S. where they work to provide leadership and consultation on issues surrounding youth, provide training tools and guides, and advocate for the voices of youth in all programs. The group’s national policy statement has 3 themes and 6 pillars, as follows:

Themes: Peer Support, Cultural Competency, Youth Voice

Pillars:  Education, Community, Mental Health, Foster Care, Juvenile Justice,  Employment

Visit Youth M.O.V.E., explore its multiple initiatives, locate your state’s chapter, and join up at:

Contact Youth M.O.V.E. at 1-800-580-6199 and via email at:

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Behavior Assessment, Plans, and Positive Supports

Conceptual image of closeup male face, with gears turning.

What’s the student trying to communicate with his or her behavior?

Links updated, April 2017

Why is a student exhibiting challenging behavior? Behavioral assessments can help you answer that question. They also are helpful in developing a behavioral intervention plan that reduces problem behavior, including positive behavior supports.  CPIR is pleased to focus this page in the Behavior Suite on these three elements:  conducting behavioral assessments, developing behavior plans, and providing positive behavior supports.  The resources we’ve listed below aren’t exhaustive of all those available, but they will certainly get you started and connect you with lots of other useful information.


Behavior as Communication

Why does my kid do that?
This document helps you find the reasons behind misbehavior in children.

What does defiant behavior mean?
PBS offers many resources for parents of children with disabilities, including this series of web pages called Challenging Behavior in Children.

Behavior serves a purpose.
Why function or purpose does a student’s inappropriate behavior serve? There are generally six common purposes (such as to obtain a preferred item or activity). How do you discover which purpose is motivating the student’s behavior? Have a look at this article that also discusses ABC–antecedent, behavior, consequence.

What are children trying to tell us?
What Works briefs from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning summarize effective practices for supporting children’s social-emotional development and preventing challenging behaviors. This 4-pager talks about functional behavior assessment and how it’s used to figure out the purpose or function of a child’s problem behavior–in effect, what the child is trying to say.

English |
Spanish |

Is this behavior normal, a phase, a development issue, or something more serious? (Resources in Spanish)
Family members and teachers may see a range of behaviors out of children and still not be sure if a particular behavior they’re seeing indicates a childhood behavior disorder. Visit Medline Plus’ page, which connects with various resources in English and Spanish to help you decide, including Development and Behavior; You and Your Child’s Behavior; Children’s Threats: When Are They Serious?; and specific aspects of behavior, such as aggression; children who won’t go to school; conduct disorders; fighting and biting; helping the child who is expressing anger; and know when to seek help for your child.

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Behavior Assessment

What is functional behavioral assessment?
This 6-page newsletter defines the process of FBA. It gives clear descriptions and specific examples. A great, reader-friendly overview!

Functional assessment: What it is and how it works.
This article from includes discussing who should be on the team that conducts a functional behavioral assessment of a student, the steps involved in an FBA, and the role of the parents. It’s also available in Spanish.

What is a functional behavioral assessment? Overview for parents.
A 3-page brief for parents on functional behavioral assessment.

English |
Spanish |

FBA: What, why, when, where, and who?
From Wrightslaw.

What is “Multimodal Behavior Analysis”?
The Duquesne University School Psychology Program provides a thorough description of the process of conducting an FBA and writing a behavior intervention plan.

What do they mean by “strength based assessment”?
This method of assessment empowers children by building on their personal strengths and resources, rather than focuses on their problems.

Training modules: FBA and behavior support plans.
Need to train others about how to conduct an FBA and write the subsequent behavior plan? Check out this 7-module suite, which comes with trainers’ manual, videos, tools, and more. Modules include: Defining And Understanding  Behavior;  Interviewing;  Observing; Critical Features;  Selecting Function-Based Interventions;  Implementation and Evaluation; and Leading a BSP Team.

Lots of training modules for professionals at the IRIS Center.
The IRIS Center offers many different training modules on behavior management, intended for educators but useful to all those seeking to learn more about this important subject. Check out three in particular for starters:

Functional Behavioral Assessment: Identifying the Reasons for Problem Behavior and Developing a Behavior Plan

Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 1): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle

Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 2): Behavioral Interventions

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Behavior Intervention Plans

Also see resources listed above under “Functional Behavioral Assessment.” Many include discussion of creating behavior intervention plans based on the results of the FBA.

Behavior intervention plans: What you need to know.
This article from explains what BIPs are, describes several behavior interventions as examples, and and includes “key takeaways.” Also available in Spanish.

How about examples of BIPs for children with specific disabilities?
This landing page tells you, bullet-fashion, why to write a BIP for a child, when, and how, and then connects you with many examples of BIPs for students with specific kinds of disabilities. A rich resource.

More examples, you say?
Here’s another place to look for example BIPs for children with: ADHD, Asperger syndrome, autism, bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol effects. LD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Positive Behavior Support

What exactly is Positive Behavior Support?
There’s no one better to ask than the PBIS Center funded by OSEP. There’s so much info on this site, you may never be seen again!

What are the components of behavioral support?
This site offers information on a 3-tier model of behavior support: (1) school-wide, (2) small group, and (3) individual. It gives information on what all students need to be successful.

Dear Colleague Letter from OSEP | Behavior supports in the IEP.
OSEP issued guidance on including behavior supports in the IEPs of students whose behavior was a concern. Hear all about it in CPIR’s webinar and connect with multiple resources that can help.

Positive behavioral interventions and supports.
This article from LDOnline explains why PBIS is important and outlines key principles of practice.

More about PBS and its individualized approach to managing challenging behavior.
This What Works brief from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning summarizes PBS and talks about how it works, factors that will limit its effectiveness, and whether it’s really just “giving in” to the child.

English |
Spanish |

Tips for parents: How to get behavior supports into the IEP.
This guide, a collaboration between the Beach Center on Disabilities and the Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, contains a wealth of suggestions for parents.

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Yet More Resources

There’s a center focusing exclusively on PBIS.
The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to provide information, training, support, and guidance to the nation on addressing behavior problems in research-based and effective ways. They offer information in English and in Spanish.

Check out this one-stop-shop on behavior!
This site has info for both families and teachers on FBAs, behavior intervention plans, bullying, and discipline issues.

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Would you like to visit another page in the Behavior Suite?
If so, use the links below to get there quick!

10 Basic Steps in Special Education

A line of young students going into school.

Updated, April 2017


When a child is having trouble in school, it’s important to find out why. The child may have a disability. By law, schools must provide special help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called special education and related services.

There’s a lot to know about the process by which children are identified as having a disability and in need of special education and related services. This section of CPIR’s website is devoted to helping you learn about that process.

This brief overview is an excellent place to start. Here, we’ve distilled the process into 10 basic steps. Once you have the big picture of the process, it’s easier to understand the many details under each step. We’ve indicated throughout this overview where, on our site, you can connect with that more detailed information.

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Step 1. Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.

There are two primary ways in which children are identified as possibly needing special education and related services: the system known as Child Find (which operates in each state), and by referral of a parent or school personnel.

Child Find. Each state is required by IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct what are known as Child Find activities.

When a child is identified by Child Find as possibly having a disability and as needing special education, parents may be asked for permission to evaluate their child. Parents can also call the Child Find office and ask that their child be evaluated.

Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that a child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. Parents may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that their child be evaluated. This request may be verbal, but it’s best to put it in writing.

Parental consent is needed before a child may be evaluated. Under the federal IDEA regulations, evaluation needs to be completed within 60 days after the parent gives consent. However, if a State’s IDEA regulations give a different timeline for completion of the evaluation, the State’s timeline is applied.

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Step 2. Child is evaluated.

Evaluation is an essential early step in the special education process for a child. It’s intended to answer these questions:

  • Does the child have a disability that requires the provision of special education and related services?
  • What are the child’s specific educational needs?
  • What special education services and related services, then, are appropriate for addressing those needs?

By law, the initial evaluation of the child must be “full and individual”—which is to say, focused on that child and that child alone. The evaluation must assess the child in all areas related to the child’s suspected disability.

The evaluation results will be used to decide the child’s eligibility for special education and related services and to make decisions about an appropriate educational program for the child.

If the parents disagree with the evaluation, they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). They can ask that the school system pay for this IEE.

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Step 3. Eligibility is decided.

A group of qualified professionals and the parents look at the child’s evaluation results. Together, they decide if the child is a “child with a disability,” as defined by IDEA. If the parents do not agree with the eligibility decision, they may ask for a hearing to challenge the decision.

Step 4. Child is found eligible for services.

If the child is found to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, he or she eligiblefor special education and related services. Within 30 calendar days after a child is determined eligible, a team of school professionals and the parents must meet to write an individualized education program (IEP) for the child.

Step 5. IEP meeting is scheduled.

The school system schedules and conducts the IEP meeting. School staff must:

  • contact the participants, including the parents;
  • notify parents early enough to make sure they have an opportunity to attend;
  • schedule the meeting at a time and place agreeable to parents and the school;
  • tell the parents the purpose, time, and location of the meeting;
  • tell the parents who will be attending; and
  • tell the parents that they may invite people to the meeting who have knowledge or special expertise about the child.

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Step 6. IEP meeting is held and the IEP is written.

The IEP team gathers to talk about the child’s needs and write the student’s IEP. Parents and the student (when appropriate) are full participating members of the team. If the child’s placement (meaning, where the child will receive his or her special education and related services) is decided by a different group, the parents must be part of that group as well.

Before the school system may provide special education and related services to the child for the first time, the parents must give consent. The child begins to receive services as soon as possible after the IEP is written and this consent is given.

If the parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. If they still disagree, parents can ask for mediation, or the school may offer mediation. Parents may file a state complaint with the state education agency or a due process complaint, which is the first step in requesting a due process hearing, at which time mediation must be available.

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Step 7. After the IEP is written, services are provided.

The school makes sure that the child’s IEP is carried out as it was written. Parents are given a copy of the IEP. Each of the child’s teachers and service providers has access to the IEP and knows his or her specific responsibilities for carrying out the IEP. This includes the accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided to the child, in keeping with the IEP.

Step 8. Progress is measured and reported to parents.

The child’s progress toward the annual goals is measured, as stated in the IEP. His or her parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress and whether that progress is enough for the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year. These progress reports must be given to parents at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress.

Step 9. IEP is reviewed.

The child’s IEP is reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, or more often if the parents or school ask for a review. If necessary, the IEP is revised. Parents, as team members, must be invited to participate in these meetings. Parents can make suggestions for changes, can agree or disagree with the IEP, and agree or disagree with the placement.

If parents do not agree with the IEP and placement, they may discuss their concerns with other members of the IEP team and try to work out an agreement. There are several options, including additional testing, an independent evaluation, or asking for mediation, or a due process hearing. They may also file a complaint with the state education agency.

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Step 10. Child is reevaluated.

At least every three years the child must be reevaluated. This evaluation is sometimes called a “triennial.” Its purpose is to find out if the child continues to be a child with a disability, as defined by IDEA, and what the child’s educational needs are. However, the child must be reevaluated more often if conditions warrant or if the child’s parent or teacher asks for a new evaluation.

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Want More Details?

You may find the following sections of our website particularly helpful for understanding the requirements and responsibilities intrinsic to the special education process.

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Webinar | Using Data for Collaboration and Advocacy

Screenshot of the agenda for this webinarA webinar for the Parent Center Network


Webinar Date:
Thursday, August 4, 2016

Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)


Vicki Davis Dávila, JD

Robert Kim, Deputy Assistant Secretary
Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education


The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires that states engage in meaningful consultation with a variety of stakeholders in making decisions about state plans for ESSA implementation. Many of these decisions will be based on the data on students, schools, professionals and communities.

This webinar will help you hone your skills in finding, understanding, and using data to make sure that the needs and interests of students with disabilities and their families are addressed in these important discussions.

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Download the Webinar’s Slideshow Presentation

Download the webinar’s PPT (i.e., as a PowerPoint file, 7 MB)

Download a PDF of the webinar’s slideshow (PDF, 2 MB)

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Additional Resources

Handout | Understanding Data as Information (PDF, 127 KB)
This tool can be used individually or in a decision-making group to support using data effectively.

What ESSA Requires | Family and Community Engagement
Parent and family engagement and consultation have always been a key piece of this powerful law. This brief provides advocates with a full overview of ESSA’s requirements (and opportunities) for parent, family, and community engagement.

ESSA | Every Student Succeeds Act  | CPIR resource page, January 2016

ESSA Webinar | CPIR Webinar, February 2016

Search the Hub library for ESSA Resources using the search term ESSA

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Go to the Webinar Archives, to listen to and view other webinars in the CPIR series.