What to Keep in Mind
If you think your child may need special education services, it is important to keep the following in mind:
- Children learn and develop at different speeds and in different ways.
- If your child learns differently, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has a disability and needs special education services.
- If English is not your child’s first language, be sure that his or her language needs are being addressed at school and that they are not affecting the decision about whether or not he or she needs special education services.
If your child is in preschool and is showing signs of delays in any of the following areas, he or she may be eligible for special education services:
- Thinking and learning
- Understanding and using language
- Self-help skills (toileting, eating, dressing)
- Behavior (getting along with others, expressing feelings)
- Physical (vision, hearing, movement)
Discussions With Your Child’s Teacher or Child Care Provider
Sharing information with your child’s teacher(s) or childcare provider(s) and other school staff will help them learn as much as possible about your child and help you understand how your child is doing in school. Here are some prompts to guide the conversation:
Information to Share with the Teacher
What your child likes to do outside of school
What you do at home to maintain positive behavior and promote learning
Any areas you in which you feel your child may need extra help
- What brings out the best in your child
- Your child's strengths, challenges, and interests
- Positive educational experiences, including when you have seen your child be successful, such as:
- listening attentively to a story, sharing toys with friends, or waiting his or her turn if your child is in preschool
- favorite subjects or positive teacher and/or peer relationships he/she has had
Questions to Ask the Teacher
- What are some of my child’s strengths in the classroom?
- What are some challenges for my child within the classroom?
- How do you (or will you) support my child when he or she needs help?
- Do you have some examples of my child’s work that we can discuss together? How does this work compare to the standards that he or she is expected to meet by the end of the year?
- Are there programs or services in the community that can support my child?
- What are some learning activities I can do at home or in the neighborhood?
- What questions should I ask my child when we read together?
- How can I help my child if he/she is struggling with homework?
- How does my child get along with the others in the classroom?
- Does my child have difficulty following directions? What do you do to help my child follow directions?
- What can you tell me (what have you noticed) about how my child learns and socializes?
- Is my child learning and developing at a rate that is expected for his or her age?
Response to Intervention (RtI)
Before referring a child for special education services, families, teachers, and child care providers should try different strategies to help a struggling child. Together, adults can collect information, use and monitor supports, and determine next steps for children.
Click here for more information about RtI for school-age students.
What’s Next? Does Your Child Need Additional Supports?
Many students will benefit from the supports provided by RtI alone and may not require additional services or an evaluation. However, if
- RtI supports have been given, and
- you have talked with your child’s teacher and the school, and
- you and the school feel that your child needs additional support,
you or the DOE may make a referral for a special education evaluation to determine if your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or you can request Section 504 Accommodation.
Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects students with disabilities against discrimination by requiring public schools to provide eligible students with accommodations so they can participate in school activities with non-disabled peers.
- Under Section 504, a student with a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities is eligible to receive accommodations.
- Examples of 504 accommodations include the administration of medication or the provision of an accessible school building.
For more information about 504 Accommodations, view the 504 Frequently Asked Questions.
Families of children enrolled in a Pre-K for All program should e-mail EarlyChildhoodPolicy@schools.nyc.gov for information about meeting a child's medical needs.