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 their 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' 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eligibility for Special Education
What is eligibility?
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.
What is LCPS' responsibility in identifying children who have disabilities?
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.
How is a referral made for a child suspected of having an educational disability?
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.
What happens during the evaluation process prior to the eligibility meeting?
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
When will the eligibility determination be made?
An eligibility meeting is scheduled when the school-based team initiates a referral for evaluation and is held within 65 business days from the date the special education designee receives a referral in which a disability is suspected.
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.
What happens in the eligibility meeting?
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
- Each requested evaluation 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 works toward consensus while considering data and all state and federal requirements. If the group cannot reach a 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
What are the eligibility criteria?
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.
Who is a "child with a disability" under the IDEA?
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.
What if my child has a medical diagnosis of a condition?
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.
Can students who are gifted be eligible for special education services?
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.
What happens if my child is found "eligible"?
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).
What happens if my child is found "not eligible" for special education services?
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 address the academic, behavior, and social-emotional needs of all students in school.
What if I disagree with the eligibility decision?
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 the initial special education eligibility decision within 10 business days of the eligibility meeting by contacting the Director of Diagnostic & Prevention Services. The request will be reviewed, and an official response will be provided in writing via U.S. mail within three to five business days from receipt of the request. Upon approval, an eligibility coordinator will contact you to schedule an AR meeting at a mutually agreeable 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.
Who do I contact if I have further questions about eligibility?
Please contact Eligibility Services at 571-252-1016 if you have questions about the eligibility process.
Sarah Fowler, Supervisor of Eligibility & Section 504 Services