Special Education for Families

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Parent Involvement Survey QR Codes 2023

2024 Parent Involvement Survey

All parents of school-aged children and youth with disabilities who receive special education services in Virginia are encouraged to complete the Virginia Department of Education’s annual Parent Involvement Survey. The survey will remain open through December 13, 2024. If you have questions concerning this survey, please contact Dr. Chiquita Seaborne, Family Engagement Specialist/Special Projects Coordinator, via telephone at (804) 418-4672 or via email, at Chiquita.Seaborne@doe.virginia.gov.


Understanding Special Education 

The Virginia Family's Guide to Special Education

This publication is a revision of the former A Parent’s Guide to Special Education that was originally published in 2010. This new state guide was developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to help those involved in special education, whether as families, teachers or school administrators, advocates, or students. Meeting the needs of children with disabilities requires an understanding of rights and responsibilities which include the child’s rights, and the school’s responsibilities to meet their needs. This guide includes a description of the special education process and what is required during each step of that process. Important timelines are highlighted throughout.

The Virginia Family’s Guide to Special Education is available in multiple languages below and a limited number of printed guides in both English and Spanish are  forthcoming.

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) 418-4761. 

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-laptopTraining Opportunities
  • Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Training: April 1-April 22, 2024. This online self-paced training will help SEAC members and other interested participants understand the role of the local Special Education Advisory Committee in Virginia and to build a more efficient and effective advisory committee. A certificate of completion will be provided for all who complete the training.

    The training will include information on:
    • SEAC in Virginia SPED Regulations
    • SEAC Roles and Responsibilities
    • Building Your Local SEAC
    • Organization Tips for SEACs
    • How to be an Effective Advisory Committee
    • FOIA Requirements for Special Education Advisory Committees 
  • Building Strong Parent Advocates: April 1-April 22, 2024The 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 a certificate of completion will be provided for all who complete the training.
  • IEP University: April 1-April 22, 2024. PEATC, in collaboration with VDOE, has developed IEP University (IEPU) to help provide families and professionals with accurate and useful information about IEP development and meetings. IEPU is a self-paced online training with easy-to-understand guidance on the special education process, the IEP document, and ways to develop collaborative relationships among schools and families. IEPU will target practical strategies aimed at helping future IEP meetings be more positive, productive, and collaborative for everyone involved. A certificate of completion for 6 hours will be provided for all who complete the training.
  • Early Childhood Academy: April 26-May 31, 2024. Parents are their child’s first and most important teachers, and the early years are a critical time for growth and development. Helping children learn and grow doesn’t have to be complicated or done alone. In this FREE virtual 5-week learning program, parents and caregivers will 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. This course was designed so that busy families can learn on their own schedule with new sessions opening weekly and available anytime – day or night. Participants who complete all sessions will receive a certificate of completion with 9 contact hours.
  • Virtual Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities Training: May 8 and May 15, 2024, from 6-8 p.m.  The purpose of the Two-Session Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities training is to assist families in understanding:
    • Keys to your child's academic success.
    • Decisions you need to make regarding your child's educational path.
    • Critical Decision Points and when they should be made.
    • Information needed to make well-informed decisions for your child.

    Please note, by registering for this event, you will receive access information for both sessions. Additional details regarding the training will be provided upon registration. 

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

The Virginia Department of Education’s Family Engagement Network (FEN) is a group of professionals from local school divisions, university training and technical assistance centers, state agencies, and other organizations whose purpose is to foster family involvement and engagement in education, especially for children with disabilities.

The FEN has created four new resources for military-connected families of students with disabilities. These three one-pager resources, as well as a video, all containing valuable information are linked below.

Additional Resources:

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