Special Education Referral Process

Early childhood special education services refer to services for children, three through five years of age with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Serves are provided through local school districts and special education cooperatives.

Professionals with training and expertise in special education services implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, by supporting the educational needs of young children and families. Early childhood special education professionals and related services personnel provide specialized educational services to children with disabilities in a variety of settings and ways to meet the developmental learning needs of children. In addition, families and early childhood providers may request information about appropriate expectations for children’s development.

Referral and Communication Process

The first step in determining if a child needs special education services to meet developmental learning needs is for the parent to request an evaluation or for a physician or early childhood care and education provider to refer the family to the local school district for evaluation. If the physician or the parent is concerned about a child but is not certain that an evaluation is indicated, it is always worth a phone call to the local school district’s early childhood special education personnel to seek information and guidance (see school district listings).

When a physician or provider has significant concerns about a child’s development that he or she believes may benefit from specialized educational
services, the physician/provider should work with the parent to complete a referral to the child’s local school district requesting an evaluation. If the local school district will not accept a referral from the physician/provider, that physician/provider should support the parent to contact the child’s local school district of residence to make a request for evaluation. If the physician/provider is not certain that a parent will make a request for evaluation, the physician/provider should contact the child’s local school district for information and guidance. See Initial Eligibility Process for Early Childhood Special Education Services diagram below. Click on the thumbnail to view the graphic fully in a new tab. This diagram comes from the Illinois State Board of Education’s “Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois.”

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