Young child completing school work

Eligibility Services for Special Education

  • Eligibility Services coordinates the implementation of special education processes in all schools related to child find, referral, evaluation, eligibility, and reevaluation to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations and local procedures.  

    As a resource, parents may access the Parent's Guide to Special Education developed by the Virginia Department of Education.  This guide helps parents understand their rights and responsibilities, their child's rights, and the school's responsibilities to meet the special needs of your child and includes a description of the special education process and what is required during each step of the process. 

    LCPS School Board Policy 5330 outlines requirements for special education eligibility and LCPS's Special Education Procedural Manual specifies the local standard procedures for child find, screening, referral for suspicion of a disability, referral for initial evaluation, evaluation and reevaluation, and eligibility for special education services.    

Child Find Notice for Special Education Services

  • Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) offers a free, appropriate public education to all children with disabilities who need special education and related services, ages two to 21, inclusive. 

    LCPS implements on-going strategies and engages in public awareness activities to actively and continuously identify, locate, and evaluate those children, birth to age 21, inclusive, residing in Loudoun County who are in need of special education and related services including children who are highly mobile, wards of the state, enrolled in private schools, home-instructed, and incarcerated in a regional or local jail in its jurisdiction for 10 or more days.

    Under the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia, children who are evaluated and found eligible for special education and related services have one or more of the following disabilities: Autism, Deaf/Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment including Blindness. 

    LCPS provides a wide variety, or continuum, of alternative placements so that each child with a disability will have an appropriate individualized education program. This continuum includes

    • general education classes;
    • special education classes;
    • special education schools;
    • home-based instruction, if required by the IEP, or homebound instruction when instruction is made available to children who are confined for periods that would prevent normal school attendance and based on certification of need by a licensed physician or clinical psychologist; and
    • instruction in hospitals and institutions, including state facilities. 


    Infant and Toddlers Ages Birth through Thirty-Six Months

    LCPS also coordinates child find activities with Early Intervention Services of Loudoun who is responsible for identifying children ages birth through thirty-six months for specialized services. Parents/guardians, day care providers, or medical providers who have concerns regarding infants and toddlers in this age range should contact Early Intervention Services of Loudoun at 571-258-3095 for information regarding a referral.

    Preschool Children Ages Two through Five

    Parents/guardians, preschool teachers, day care providers, or medical providers who have concerns about a preschool child (age 2 by September 30 to age 5 but not yet age-eligible for kindergarten) should contact LCPS's Preschool Child Find Center to schedule a free developmental screening. The Preschool Child Find Center will schedule a meeting within ten (10) business days upon receipt of the referral and schedule a meeting to screen your child and to determine whether to evaluate for special education. 

    School-Age Students

    Referrals may be made by any source including school staff, parents/guardians, the Virginia Department of Education, any other state agency, other individuals, a school-based team, or through a screening process. Referrals will be accepted in written, electronic, or oral form by each school’s principal or designee, for school-age students suspected of having a disability.  

    Within ten (10) business days of receipt of the referral, the school-based team at the student’s school of attendance will review records and other performance evidence of the child in order to make recommendations to meet the child's educational and behavioral needs.  The team shall refer the child to the special education administrator or designee within 3 business days if the team suspects a disability and determines an evaluation for special education is warranted. 

    Students Attending Private School

    Parents/guardians or teachers of a resident child parentally placed in a private school located in Loudoun County or is receiving home-instruction, who have reason to believe a child has a disability and is in need of special education, should contact the principal or designee of the child’s LCPS school of residence.    

    Parents/guardians or teachers of a non-resident child enrolled in a private school located in Loudoun County, who have reason to believe a child has a disability and is in need of special education, should contact the principal or designee of the appropriate LCPS school closest to the private school. 

    LCPS offers an annual meeting for representatives from private schools and parents who have placed their children in private school or who home-school regarding the child find requirement.  The informational session will be held on Thursday, March 11, 2021 from 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM. Registration Link:

Frequently Asked Questions About Eligibility for Special Education

  • What is eligibility?

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    Eligibility is the procedure by which a school-based team determines if the child has a qualifying educational disability as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia or requires accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Special education is specially designed instruction provided at no cost to the parent.

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  • What is LCPS's responsibility in identifying children who have disabilities?

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    LCPS must actively and continuously locate, identify, and evaluate children residing in Loudoun County, who are birth to age 21 inclusive, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, who need special education and related services, including children who:
    - Are highly mobile, such as migrant and homeless children;
    - Are wards of the state;
    - Attend private schools, including children who are home-instructed or home-tutored;
    - Are suspected of being children with disabilities and in need of special education, even though they are advancing from grade to grade; and
    - Are under age 18, who are suspected of having a disability who need special education and related services, and who are incarcerated in a regional or local jail in its jurisdiction for 10 or more days.

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  • How is a referral made for a child suspected of having an educational disability?

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    Anyone including parents, teachers, administrators, or a school-based team can refer a child if they suspect a disability.  Referrals will be accepted in written, electronic, or oral form for children aged two to 21, suspected of having a disability. A Multi-Purpose Referral Form is available at the school and completed by the person initiating the referral. The referring source must explain the reasons that an evaluation is requested and any efforts that have been made to address the concerns.  

    For school-aged children, referrals are made to the child's school principal or designee. The principal or designee will schedule a Referral Review Team meeting within ten (10) business days upon receipt of the referral and will notify the parent(s) of the meeting date and time to discuss the referral and determine whether to evaluate.  

    For preschool age children, referrals are made to the LCPS Preschool Child Find Center, located on Union Street in Leesburg. The Preschool Child Find Center will schedule a Referral Review Team meeting within ten (10) business days upon receipt of the referral and schedule a meeting to screen your child by LCPS Speech-Language Pathologists and Early Childhood Special Education staff and to determine whether to evaluate for special education.  

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  • What happens during the evaluation process prior to the eligibility meeting?

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    Evaluations are completed by an LCPS social worker, school psychologist, educational diagnostician and related services providers as appropriate, such as a speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, and/or physical therapist

    • Review of evaluation results with individual evaluators is held at parent request
    • All evaluation reports are made available to the parents at the child’s school no later than two (2) business days before the Eligibility Meeting and provided to the parents no later than 10 days after the meeting at no cost. For preschool-aged children referred by Preschool Child Find Center, evaluation reports will be available at the LCPS Administration Building (21000 Education Court, Ashburn, VA 20148)
    • Invitations to Eligibility Meetings are sent to parent(s) approximately two (2) weeks prior to the meeting date
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  • When will the eligibility determination be made?

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    An eligibility meeting will be scheduled within 65 business days from the date the special education designee received the referral due to suspicion of disability.   

    You and the eligibility group may agree in writing to extend the 65 business day timeline to obtain information that cannot be obtained within the 65 business days.

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  • What happens in the eligibility meeting?

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    The eligibility team is comprised of the special education designee for the school, qualified school evaluators, a qualified special education teacher, the child’s general education teacher (or, if your child does not have a general education teacher, a general education teacher qualified to teach a child of your child's age), a person qualified to conduct diagnostic examinations of children, and the parents.

    Eligibility meetings are generally 45 to 60 minutes in length and follow this process:  

    • Meeting participants are introduced, and the eligibility process is explained
    • The referral concerns are reviewed
    • Each evaluation requested is summarized (parents are offered an opportunity for an interpretive conference prior to the eligibility meeting to discuss the psychological and educational evaluation results in detail)
    • Other relevant information including parental input and private evaluation reports are reviewed
    • All disability categories are discussed for consideration
    • Eligibility criteria for specific disability categories are carefully considered and documented
    • The eligibility group shall work toward consensus while considering data and all state and federal requirements. If the group cannot reach consensus, it is the responsibility of the Local Education Agency representative (Eligibility Coordinator) to provide a data-based decision in accordance with federal and state regulations.  
    • Parental consent for the eligibility decision is obtained and copies of the evaluation reports and documentation of the eligibility group's decision are provided
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  • What are the eligibility criteria?

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    A child would be eligible for special education services if 1) the child has a disability as recognized under IDEA resulting in an adverse effect on their educational performance and 2) the child requires specially designed instruction in order to access the curriculum as a direct result of that disability. 

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  • Who is a "child with a disability" under the IDEA?

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    A child with a disability is eligible for special education and related services. This term includes a child who is evaluated and determined to have: 

    "Autism" means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria in this definition are satisfied.

    "Deaf-blindness" means simultaneous hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness. 

    "Deafness" means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, that adversely affects the child's educational performance. 

    "Developmental delay" means a disability affecting a child ages two by September 30 through six, inclusive: 1. (i) Who is experiencing developmental delays, as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, or (ii) who has an established physical or mental condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay; 2. The delay(s) is not primarily a result of cultural factors, environmental or economic disadvantage, or limited English proficiency; and 3. The presence of one or more documented characteristics of the delay has an adverse affect on educational performance and makes it necessary for the student to have specially designed instruction to access and make progress in the general educational activities for this age group.

    "Emotional disability" means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child's educational performance: 1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; 2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; 3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; 4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or 5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.  Emotional disability includes schizophrenia. The term does not apply to children who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disability as defined in this section. 

    "Hearing impairment" means an impairment in hearing in one or both ears, with or without amplification, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child's educational performance but that is not included under the definition of deafness in this section.

    "Intellectual disability" means the definition formerly known as "mental retardation" and means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

    "Multiple disabilities" means simultaneous impairments (such as intellectual disability with blindness, intellectual disability with orthopedic impairment), the combination of which causes such severe educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments. The term does not include deaf-blindness. 

    "Orthopedic impairment" means a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes impairments caused by congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures). 

    "Other health impairment" means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia and Tourette syndrome that adversely affects a child's educational performance. 

    "Specific learning disability" means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of intellectual disabilities; of emotional disabilities; of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

    "Speech or language impairment" means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, expressive or receptive language impairment, or voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

    "Traumatic brain injury" means an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment, or both, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Traumatic brain injury applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more areas, such as cognition; language; memory; attention; reasoning; abstract thinking; judgment; problem solving; sensory, perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions; information processing; and speech. Traumatic brain injury does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or to brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

    "Visual impairment including blindness" means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance.  The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

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  • What if my child has a medical diagnosis of a condition?

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    The existence of a medical condition alone does not automatically qualify a child for special education and related services.  The team must also determine whether or not the medical condition results in an adverse impact on child's educational performance and requires specially designed instruction.

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  • Can students who are gifted be eligible for special education services?

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    Yes.  There are students who are gifted or enrolled in Advanced Placement or Honors courses but also need special education and related services.  The child must meet a two-prong test to be considered an eligible child with a disability: (1) have one of the specified disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and (2) because of the disability, need special education and related services.

    The Virginia Department of Education has published Supporting the Identification and Achievement of the Twice Exceptional Student to provide answers to common questions concerning the identification process and instruction of students with dual exceptionalities.  

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  • What happens if my child is found "eligible"?

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    If a child is found eligible under IDEA for special education and related services, a meeting will be held within 30 calendar days from the date of the eligibility meeting to develop the Individualized Education Program (IEP).  

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  • What happens if my child is found "not eligible" for special education services?

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    The special education designee, usually the assistant principal of the school, will share relevant information with the child's teachers or any appropriate committee for consideration of how best to meet the child's needs. Each school utilizes the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework to meet the academics, behavior, and social emotional needs of all students in school.   

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  • What if I disagree with the eligibility decision?

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    If you disagree as the parent/guardian, you have the following options:

    • Parental consent is required for the initial eligibility determination and any change in categorical identification.
    • You may write a Member Statement stating your disagreement with the eligibility decision to be included in the child's educational record.
    • You may request an Administrative Review (AR) of an initial special education eligibility decision within 10 business days of the eligibility meeting by contacting the Director of Diagnostic & Prevention Services who will review the request and respond in writing within three to four business days. Upon approval, an eligibility coordinator will contact you to schedule an AR meeting at a mutually convenient date and time.  The composition of the Administrative Review committee will be similar to that of the original committee. 
    • You may request a due process hearing.
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