In order to be an effective advocate for your child, it is helpful to have a good understanding of the special education process. This section explains the steps of the education plan — from referral to implementation. Definitions of commonly-used terms and acronyms are included to so you can better communicate with school staff.


History of Special Education and IDEA

Passed in 1975, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act guaranteed every child a free and appropriate education.

The IEP Process

It is important to identify, evaluate and serve students who need special education services. There is a 9-step process to ensure students, whose disabilities affect their ability to learn, receive a free appropriate public education.

The Individualized Education Program - IEP

The IEP is an extremely important document. It contains information regarding a student’s academic, functional, social, and behavior needs and how the school district will assist in helping the student make gains in these areas of need.

Independent Education Evaluation - IEE

When a parent does not agree with the school district’s evaluation or would like additional information to assist in planning the IEP, they can request an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE).

Behavior Assessments & Supports

If a student has a disability-related behavior that is negatively impacting their education, parents or staff can request a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (FBIS) are strategies to address behavior and support students with these challenges.

Individualized Family Service Plan - IFSP

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a document that details early intervention services for children from birth to age 3 that qualify for services through Part C of IDEA. It is also the process of finding, evaluating and providing services for young children with disabilities.

504 Plan

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based upon disability.

Conflict Resolution

There are several options to come to a resolution.

Third Party Billing

Minnesota law requires school districts to seek reimbursement from private health insurers and public health insurers for the cost of health-related services included in the student’s IEP, IFSP or IIIP.

Transition and Graduation

When a student turns age 14 or begins 9th grade, the IEP must change to reflect goals that will assist the student as he/she transitions from school.

Post-Secondary Education

If your child will be attending a post-secondary school, it is important to consult with the school's disability services coordinator.

Minnesota Public School Options

Alternative education, charter schools, magnet schools, online learning and open enrollment are all Minnesota public school options.

Homeschooling Children with Disabilities

Minnesota allows parents to homeschool their children if they desire.


The State of Minnesota requires immunizations for students attending primary and post-secondary public schools unless a legal exemption is obtained.



Bullying of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is an issue that we all need to be aware of, educated about, and help stop from occurring.

School Districts in Washington County

A listing of school districts in Washington County.