What is Special Education?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a free and appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services. Special Education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability at no cost to parents. IDEA states that students with disabilities must be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment. To the maximum extent appropriate, the student is educated with students who are non-disabled.
What is Inclusion?
Inclusion is when children with disabilities are educated in the schools they would attend if they did not have disabilities. An inclusive, age-appropriate general education classroom is the primary choice for all students. Inclusive classrooms benefit all members of the class and enable children of differing ability levels to work and learn together. Students with special needs may leave their classroom for special tutorials and additional services, but chiefly the child is a member of the general education classroom community. Some children with more severe needs may require placement outside of the general education classroom. For more information on Inclusion in the state of Maryland, please visit www.msde.state.md.us/SpecialEducation/AllInclusive.pdf.
What is the IEP?
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) builds upon a child’s strengths and outlines the services the child will receive including locations, service providers, and schedule of services. Parents, special educators, general educators, and public agency representatives are all a part of the IEP team. The IEP is reviewed annually, but may be amended during the year if the child’s needs change. For more information on the IEP process, consult the Maryland State IEP handbook: www.msde.state.md.us/SpecialEducation/IEP%20Handbook2001.pdf.
What services are available, and how do I obtain them?
Prince George’s County offers a series of services based upon a child’s age.
- Children Birth to Three Years of Age:
Children suspected of having a developmental delay should be referred to the Infants and Toddlers Program for an evaluation. A service coordinator is assigned to help coordinate the assessment with the family. If the child is eligible, an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed. The Infants and Toddlers Program’s telephone number is 301-925-6627.
- Children Three to Five Years of Age:
Child Find provides evaluations of children who demonstrate a developmental delay. If a child is eligible to receive services, an IEP is developed. Child Find can be reached at 301-925-6600.
- School-Age Students:
If you think your child needs services, contact your child’s teacher and the special education coordinator at your child’s school. The base school’s Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) reviews all available information on each referral, including observations by school staff and test reports shared by parents. Other information is gathered if the team determines that additional psychological, medical, or educational evaluations are needed. Once a disability is determined and eligibility established, the MDT, which includes parents, uses the information to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The parent must provide consent for the initial IEP before special education services begin. Contact the Department of Special Education for further information: 301-817-3142.
- College-Age Students:
Students with intellectual disabilities may be able to get certain types of federal sutdent aid. Funding may be granted from the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Federal Work-Study programs if the student is enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) program for students with intellectual disabilites in an institution of higher education that participates in the federal student aid programs. The student must maintain satisfactory academic progress, and meet the basic federal student aid eligibility requirements. Students with I/DD are not required to have a high school diploma or GED and are not required to be pursuing a degree or certificate. Click here for more information.
Special Education Advocacy Services:
The Arc of Prince George’s County provides support, training, and networking opportunities for families and individuals with disabilities. Contact Melonee Clark at 301-925-7050, ext. 307 for more information.
The Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education, Inc. (MCIE) promotes the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms and neighborhood schools through advocacy, community organizing and technical assistance. Call 800-899-8837 or 410-859-5400 for more information.
Maryland Disability Law Center advocates on behalf of children with disabilities. Call 410-727-6352 or 800-233-7201 for more information.
The Parent’s Place of Maryland provides support and education for parents and families of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Contact Parent’s Place at www.ppmd.org or 410-768-9100 for more information.
Partners for Success Parent Center in Prince George’s County promotes partnerships and parent involvement in special education by providing training, referrals, and an information library. For more information contact the center at 301-431-5675.
Facilitated IEP Team Meeting Project is a service sponsored by Maryland Association of Community Mediation Centers www.mdmediation.org. The facilitator, a neutral party, keeps the discussion focused and helps the team resolve disagreements. Contact the PGCPS compliance specialist at 301-817-3133 for more information.