What do disability services look like in Wake County?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees special education for qualifying students throughout the nation. A wide variety of resources are available to students who need them, depending on the specific needs of the individual student. 

Disabilities covered under IDEA include Autism Spectrum Disorder, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delays, emotional disabilities, hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities, co-occurring disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairments (includes chronic or acute asthma, ADHD, epilepsy, etc.), specific learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injuries, and visual impairment.

Students with one or more of these disabilities may receive accommodations in the form of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). IEPs allow for changes to be made to the learning environment to better accommodate the needs of disabled students. These accommodations may include transportation, testing modifications (extra time, alternative testing location, etc.) or other services depending on the student’s needs. At the high school level, many IEPs also include transition planning to help prepare students for the transition into life post-graduation. 

The IEP process involves four major steps: a referral meeting, an eligibility meeting, IEP meetings, and reevaluation. In the referral meeting, parents discuss the student’s strengths and weaknesses, areas of concern, and results of any previous evaluations with an IEP team. The IEP team typically includes the student’s parents, teachers, counselor, and others (speech therapist, psychologist, etc.) depending on the needs of the student. The student is also encouraged to attend meetings and be a part of the IEP process.

In the eligibility meeting, the IEP team discusses the student’s disability and how it impacts academic performance to determine the primary area of disability and whether the student is eligible for special education services.

In IEP meetings, parents discuss growth and concerns under the current IEP with the IEP team. Changes to accommodations may be made as necessary. 

During a reevaluation, the IEP team discusses the student’s performance to determine if they are still eligible for an IEP and if any changes need to be made.

Disability services allow all students to participate in and out of the classroom in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Being aware of what these services are and who qualifies makes it easier for students to get the resources they need. If a student believes that they may benefit from an IEP, they should first speak to a parent who can then reach out to a counselor and initiate the process of obtaining the services they need.

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