Special Education

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Special education services are available for children over the age of three through age 21 who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) provides the legal grounds for children with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). These services are administered by the school district where the child lives.

COVID-19 and Special Education

Families are learning to live a new normal with children, youth and young adults home. Schools are working to identify and provide virtual and other online learning options; this is even more challenging for students with disabilities who receive special education and related services and who have a right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Here are several guidance documents that may be helpful to families and educators:

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Front cover of Special Education manual.To gain a deeper understanding of the special education law and process and your child’s associated rights, order the Special Education in Virginia: A Guidebook for Parents Manual! 

  • …have statutory language at your fingertips, so you can speak to educators and attorneys in a language they understand.
  • …understand what triggers Special Education law.
  • …ensure that you child receives appropriate special education and related services.





Helpful Links


  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates – The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates has a directory of professional attorneys and advocates available.  There are currently 45 listed professionals in this database.
  • VCU’s Center for Family Involvement – VCU’s Center for Family Involvement has a regional family-to-family program.  The Center for Family Involvement works with families to increase their skills as advocates, mentors and leaders so that families, children and young adults with disabilities can lead the lives they want.
  • Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) – PEATC offers services, support and training for parents of students with disabilities.  Their webpage has on-demand trainings, a listing of parent support groups, and calendar of upcoming trainings.
  • Virginia Department of Education (VDOE)
  • Legal Aid Justice Center’s Helping You Help Your Child: A Focus on Education – This manual contains a large volume of information on a child’s rights as they relate to education issues in Virginia. While not focused exclusively on special education, this resource covers many topics that anyone new to special education may need to know including diploma requirements, rights for homeless children, attendance, and truancy.


  • Special Education Online Advocacy Resource Guide – This Advocacy Resource guide is designed to assist families with understanding the processes involved in special education to include negotiating with school divisions for appropriate services.
  • Virginia Family Special Education Connection – The Virginia Family Special Education Connection has local disability resources and contacts, by county.  The website provides a one-stop-shop for parents, families and caregivers of children with special needs.

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