Accessing School-Age Special Education Services



  1. How Do I Refer a School-Age Child for Special Education Services?

    Referrals for school-age children (ages 5-21) who attend public school must be made in writing to the principal. Referrals for school-age children who attend private schools, charter schools, or who are not enrolled should be sent to the Committee on Special Education (CSE) for the district where the child lives. A list of CSE chairpersons and their contact information can be found on the NYC Department of Education website.

    The referral should list the child’s name, date of birth and address, and should contain contact information for the child’s parents. It should also talk about any specific concerns you have about the child’s development.

  2. What Happens After a Referral is Made?

    After a referral is made, the school or the CSE will set up an appointment for the parent or guardian to sign consent for evaluations. The school or the CSE will evaluate the child. When the evaluations are done, there will be a meeting to write an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP describes the services that the child needs.

  3. What is the Timeline for Completing Evaluations and Setting up Services?

    The Department of Education has 60 school days from the date the child’s parent signs consent to evaluate the child and put all services in place.

  4. What Types of Evaluations Will be Done?

    School-age children receive the following evaluations:
    • Social history interview
    • Psycho-educational evaluation
    • Physical examination (usually done by the child’s pediatrician)
    • Classroom observation
    The parent or person who made the referral can ask for other evaluations such as Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Psychiatric Evaluation, Functional Behavior Assessment, etc.

  5. When is a Child Eligible for School-Age Special Education?

    Children are eligible for school-age special education services starting in September of the year they turn 5 if they have one of the disabilities listed below and that disability affects their learning.
    • Autism
    • Deaf
    • Deaf-Blindness
    • Emotionally Disturbed
    • Hard of Hearing
    • Learning Disabled
    • Mentally Retarded
    • Multiply Disabled
    • Orthopedically Impaired
    • Other Health Impaired
    • Speech Impaired
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
    • Visually Impaired


  6. What Educational Services are Available for School-Age Students with Disabilities?

    Students with disabilities must be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). That means that to the greatest extent possible, children with disabilities must be educated in the same classrooms as children who are not disabled. Children with disabilities should not be placed in separate classes or separate schools unless that is the only way they can learn. The Department of Education offers a variety of different special education services, from least restrictive to most restrictive:

    • Related Services: Students with disabilities may receive related services such as speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.
    • Special Education Teacher Support Services: SETSS, also known as “Resource Room,” is provided by a special education teacher to address a child’s cognitive and academic delays. The teacher may work with the child in the classroom or pull him out of the classroom for extra help. Services must be provided for a minimum of two hours per week and can be provided for as much as 50% of the school day.
    • Integrated Co-Teaching: ICT, also known as Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT), is a classroom setting where children who have disabilities are mixed together with children who do not. The class has two teachers: a full time general education teacher and a full time special education teacher who collaborate throughout the day.
    • Special Class in a Community School: This is a small classroom setting where every child has a disability. Special classes usually have 12 students (or 15 in high school) and one special education teacher. Some special classes also have a paraprofessional (teacher’s aide).
    • Special Class in a Specialized School (District 75): The Department of Education runs separate schools for children who have complex and severe disabilities, including deafness, blindness, autism, moderate to severe mental retardation and severe emotional/behavioral issues. Classrooms in these schools typically have between 6 and 12 students, one teacher, and between 1 and 4 paraprofessionals (teacher’s aides).
    • Non-Public Schools: New York state-approved non-public schools provide programs for children whose educational needs are so severe that they cannot be met in a public school program.
    • Home and Hospital Instruction: Home or hospital instruction can be provided for a child who is unable to attend school for an extended period of time.


  7. What If the School Cannot Provide the Child’s Related Services?

    If a child needs speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling or another related service and the school cannot provide it, ask for a Related Service Agreement (RSA). The RSA is a voucher that allows the child to get the service from a private provider after school hours.

  8. What If the School Cannot Provide the Child’s SETSS?

    If the child needs Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) and the school cannot provide it, ask for a P3 Letter. A P3 Letter is a voucher that allows the child to get the service from a private provider after school hours.

  9. What If the Department of Education Does Not Have Space for a Child who Needs a Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) Class?

    If a child needs a ICT class (also known as a Collaborative Team Teaching class) and the Department of Education does not provide one within 60 school days, the child is eligible to receive 2 periods per day of SETSS (either in school or through a P3 Letter) until a placement is found.

  10. What if the Department of Education Does Not Have Space for a Child who Needs a Special Class?

    If a child needs a special class in a community school or a special class in a specialized school and the Department of Education does not provide one within 60 school days, the child is eligible to receive a Nickerson (P1-R) letter. A Nickerson letter is a voucher that allows a child to attend a state-approved non-public school for one year. The Department of Education pays the tuition at the non-public school. The family is responsible for sending application packets to schools and arranging for interviews.

(January 12, 2011)