A child doesn’t have to be failing to make a referral. Some other reasons to make a referral include: discipline issues, unsatisfactory performance on group achievement tests, extreme and ongoing anxiety about school, difficulty getting along with others, or a medical diagnosis of a disability. For preschool aged children, a parent may want to consider making a referral if their child has been asked to leave their preschool or child care program for developmental or discipline reasons.

If a parent suspects their child has a disability (or has a diagnosis) and needs special education, he/she may make a referral to the school or LEA (local education agency, which is another term for the “school district”). A teacher, doctor, therapist or anyone may make a referral. Making the referral in writing and explaining why you believe your child may have a disability that requires special education will help to ensure that your concerns are understood and addressed appropriately. If the referral comes from someone other than the parent, including from the child’s teacher, the parent must be immediately notified in writing that a referral has been made.  PIC on Special Education has a Sample Referral you can use to write your referral.

Who do I send it to?

If a parent suspects or knows that their child has a disability that may require special education, they may make a referral to the superintendent, special education director, classroom teacher, building principal, or other appropriate individual to have their child evaluated for special education consideration.

Best practice is to make the referral in writing, including the date, child’s name and the reasons why you suspect the child may have a disability that requires special education. Parents will find it helpful to keep copies of the referral and all other correspondence with the school for their own records.

Next Step => What happens after a referral is made?

Frequently Asked Questions

Organization is key in the special education process. Parents should always keep a copy of anything they sign or is given to them by the school and IEP team.

Parents have the right to:

  • Participate in all meetings regarding special education and their child’s IEP. Parents are a member of the IEP Team.
  • Give or withhold written consent
  • 14 calendar days to respond to any proposal, refusal or request by the IEP team
  • Be notified about important decisions regarding their child’s special education (Written Prior Notice)
  • 10 days written notice of IEP meetings
  • Access to evaluation reports and other documentation 5 days prior to an IEP meeting
  • Receive information in a way that is understandable
  • Be provided with an interpreter or translator if needed
  • File a complaint, request mediation, request a due process hearing or neutral conference