Special Education & Accommodations

What is Special Education?

Special Education is the term used for services and supports that schools provide to ensure that children with disabilities have access to the regular education curriculum (course of study) at their school and can, as much as possible, take part in in school activities, classes, and events.

Students with disabilities and special health care needs in public schools, charter schools, and all school districts can receive support and services, based on their individual needs.

Protections and supports can happen through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), an antidiscrimination statute, or through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal education law, commonly referred to as special education.

Both Section 504 and IDEA ensure the right to:

Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Every school aged student who meets the definition of an individual with a disability, under IDEA or 504 is guaranteed the right to FAPE. FAPE means to provide regular or special education and related services to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities just as the needs of students without disabilities are met, free of charge.

The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The right to being educated in the LRE means that a student with a disability should spend as much time as is appropriate with peers who do not receive special education services.

Procedural Safeguards - Student and Parent(s) Rights and Protections

Both Section 504 and IDEA have established Procedural Safeguards that protect students and their parents when identifying, evaluating, and placing students with disabilities, and contain steps for challenging decisions when there is disagreement. It is typical for families to be given this information when they begin the process of identification or annually, when the plan is reviewed.

When these services, supports and protections are in place, students can fully benefit from their time in school.

The following diagram gives an outline of the Special Education Process:

Special Education Process: Referral>Evaluation>Eligibility>IEP>Placement>Annual Review (goes back to Evaluation)

This section of the Portal will go into detail about how to navigate Special Education Services.


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Center for Parent Information and Resources (DOE)
Parent Centers in every state provide training to parents of children with disabilities and provide information about special education, transition to adulthood, health care, support groups, local conferences, and other federal, state, and local services. See the "Find Your Parent Center Link" to find the parent center in your state.

National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
This easy-to-use website provides information about transition during high school and to opportunities after high school including jobs, vocational education, and college. Provides links to contacts in each state for State Transition Contact, Regional Resource Center Contact, State Director of Special Education, Part B Contact, and State Director or Vocational Rehabilitation.

School Contacts Page 1 (Care Notebook) (PDF Document 66 KB)
A place to list the school district, special education coordinator, 504 Accommodation Plan coordinator, district nurse for the school, care provider, and school/preschool. This is part of the Care Notebook Contacts Section.

School Contacts Page 2 (Care Notebook) (PDF Document 62 KB)
A form to list the school principal/administrator, classroom teacher, resource instructor, aide/assistant/intervener, special education director, special education teacher, therapists, and other contacts. This is part of the Care Notebook Contacts Section.

NIMAS, IDEA regulation for access to instructional materials
Provides data and technical information about the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), which was designed to make it easier and faster for students with disabilities to obtain accessible instructional materials in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Services for Patients & Families in New Mexico (NM)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2013; last update/revision: February 2021
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Gina Pola-Money
Reviewer: Tina Persels
Authoring history
2013: first version: Shena McAuliffe, MFAR
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer