Special Education for Families

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parent-young-child-readingUnderstanding Special Education 

A Parent's Guide to Special Education 

This publication was developed to help parents understand their rights and responsibilities, their child's rights and the school's responsibilities to meet the special needs of their child. The guide includes a description of the special education process and what is required of you and the school during each step of that process. Important timelines are highlighted in each section. 

A Parent's Guide to Special Education is provided in the following formats. 

Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities 

The Critical Decision Points page provides information to assist parents with understanding not only what decisions will need to be made, but also when those decisions need to start being considered. 

The New Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) Assessment 

At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the portfolio-based Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) was replaced with a new multiple-choice assessment in the content areas of reading, mathematics, and science that will be administered to students in an online or paper format. The new VAAP is based on academic content standards derived from the Standards of Learning (SOL) in reading, mathematics, and science that have been reduced in depth, breadth, and complexity. The following resources have been developed in order to assist families with understanding the recent changes: 

Applied Studies Diploma

The VDOE's new resource, Understanding the Applied Studies Diploma is here to assist families with understanding everything they need to know related to this specific diploma option. An accessible Word document version as well as an accessible Spanish Word document version, is also available. 

teacher-parent-meetingResolving Disputes

Parent Ombudsman  

VDOE has an Ombudsman for Special Education who acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering individuals' questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and issues. School divisions, parents, and children benefit and build relationships when school divisions and parents work together to resolve problems, the Parent Ombudsman for Special Education serves to facilitate that process. 

Ombudsman Contact Information 

Parent Ombudsman 
Toll Free: 800-422-2083 

Resolution Resources 

Parents are encouraged to resolve special education concerns at the local school division level. View the documents provided below for additional resolution resources. 

student-parent-teacher-introductionFamily Engagement

Parent Information Email Updates 

Subscribe or update your GovDelivery subscriber preferences to receive email updates from the Virginia Department of Education. For information designed specifically for parents, look for the heading News and Updates and check the box marked "Information for Parents and Families." You can also select other topics that you would like to receive. For more information or questions related to the GovDelivery system, please contact Tracy Lee, via email at Tracy.Lee@doe.virginia.gov, or by telephone at (804) 225-3492. 

Virginia Family Special Education Connection 

Virginia Family Special Education Connection provides comprehensive information on special education issues, practices and services to Virginia families who have children with disabilities. This resource was developed by VDOE, in collaboration with the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities at George Mason University. 

Parent Resource Centers (PRC) 

The VDOE has set aside Parent Resource Center (PRC) Sub-grant Funding to assist PRCs in continuing to staff the center and/or developing and implementing activities/products centered on students and families with disabilities. These subgrant award funds are available only by application to the VDOE. In that these funds are extremely limited, they will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Special Education Advisory Committee  

  • State Special Education Advisory Committee – The State Special Education Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public. Regular quarterly meetings include time for the committee to receive public comment. 

  • Local Special Education Advisory Committees - Every school division is required to have a SEAC as detailed in Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia, effective January 25, 2010 (special education regulations).  


parent-toddler-laptopUpcoming Training Opportunities

Training Provided by PEATC & VDOE 

The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) provides the following free training opportunities.

  • Transition University (February 13-April 4) – This five-session self-paced online series is available to help parents/guardians navigate the transition process for their school age child and prepare for the adult world. This course is designed for parents/caregivers of elementary, middle or high school students that receive special education services but is open to everyone. 
  • Early Childhood Academy (February 17-March 31) – This five-week learning program is available for parents and caregivers to learn useful tips and ideas for supporting their child’s development and the resources available to help make transition from early intervention to school less confusing. Participants who complete all sessions will receive a certificate of completion with nine contact hours. 
  • IEP University (March 6-March 26) – This self-paced online training will provide families and professionals with accurate and useful information around IEP development and meetings that will aid in understanding the special education process, the IEP document, and ways to develop collaborative relationships among schools and families. A certificate of completion for six hours will be provided for all who complete the training.
  • Building Strong Parent Advocates (April 3-April 23) – The Building Strong Parent Advocates training provides information to help families build a solid foundation to understand the special education process while empowering them to be their child’s best advocate. The training will take approximately 6 hours and can be accessed any time during the three-week session. 

Ongoing Training Opportunities

  • Back to Basics Special Education Law Modules - This professional development initiative is designed to support Virginia school division personnel by providing introductory information on special education compliance. These modules provide information that is valuable for the schools and families who support Virginia's students with disabilities. 

student-parent-home-tabletAdditional Resources Available to Help Support your Child

Virtual Learning

Special Education Regulations & Rights 

Military Family Information 

Private Schools 

Outside Resources

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) 

Endrew F. Question and Answer Document 

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, 137 S.Ct. 988. In this decision, the court held that "to meet its substantive obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a school must offer [a child] an IEP [individualized education program] reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances." 

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is pleased to announce its release of a Question and Answer (Q&A) document addressing the Endrew F. decision. OSERS is issuing this Q&A document to provide parents and other stakeholders information on the issues addressed in Endrew F. and the impact of the Court's decision on the implementation of IDEA. We hope that you find this Q&A document useful, and we look forward to receiving additional questions and comments related to the Q&A and the Endrew F. decision by email at EndrewF@ed.gov

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Case Q&A