Special Education

Helping navigate special education in New York City

Our Approach

What does it mean to have a child with special needs?

For us, it means that while mainstream educational environments engage a wide array of students, special needs schools emphasize individualized instruction and support. Most importantly, if your child is struggling or being challenged in a particular area of their development, special needs schools will customize your child’s educational program to meet their very specific learning needs.

Special education is a broad term used to describe the educational system for children with disabilities. In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was developed to ensure that children with special education needs have access to the same public school education as every other child. In 1997, IDEA was revised to include laws to promote that children with special needs have the same access to the general curriculum.


Getting Started

You just heard, or you suspect, that your child has some special learning needs. What now? Is your child struggling academically, behaviorally, socially or emotionally? It’s critical that you have an understanding of your child’s struggles before you reach out for support.

Who should you reach out to for support? Public schools will have a School Based Support Team (SBST) to whom you can reach out when making a first contact. When is it time to pursue an evaluation? Should you opt for a private or Department of Education (DOE) administered evaluation? What is the difference? There is a vast difference between a DOE evaluation and one you privately secure at your expense. Should you share the results of the evaluation with your child’s school or admissions personnel?

It is important for anyone who is working with your child to have a clear understanding of your child’s learning needs. Only if the school is made aware of the learning profile of the student can they make appropriate program or support service recommendations.

These are many of the questions we often hear from parents. We have an extensive list of evaluators who will administer the very specific tests needed to identify the strengths, weaknesses and learning profile of your child. We are constantly updating our information to include resources for reduced fee or sliding scale evaluations.

Developing a Strategy

We can help you define your “end goal.”

What types of resources are available to you? Once you have the results of an evaluation, it should be made clear what support services are available at your child’s current school.

Once you have the results of the evaluation, it is critical to be armed with a list of questions regarding the above supports as well as, but not limited to, the following:

Does the current school offer Related Services? Push-in or pull-out services?
Does the school provide SETSS? (Special Education Teacher Support Services)
Are there Learning Specialists on staff?
When is it time to consider making the transition to a specialized school?

In defining your “end goal” it is most important that you have an understanding of the programs and supports along the DOE continuum of services. We will help you identify the most appropriate program for your child based on the results of your private evaluation.

Navigating the Special Education Process

Students suspected of having a disability are referred to a multidisciplinary team called the Committee on Special Education (CSE) or the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE). The CSE arranges for an evaluation of the student’s abilities and needs.

The parent can make an “Initial Referral” asking the school district to evaluate the child to determine if he or she needs special education services. It should be addressed to the chairperson of the child’s school district.

The parent must provide written consent to allow the CSE to evaluate the child, which may include various assessment tools and strategies.

It is incumbent on the CSE and the parent to complete their due diligence process before scheduling a meeting to discuss the results of the evaluation.

Parents also have the right to pursue a private evaluation, at their expense, for submission to the CSE at this meeting. However, recommendations made within the body of a private evaluation do not have to be considered when the CSE is making decisions. It is important for parents to be aware of this.

At this meeting, called an IEP meeting, the team discusses the current level of functioning. From that base, the CSE or CPSE agrees on annual goals and the supports, services and modifications the child needs to achieve those goals and creates a legal, written document known as the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) At the same time, they determine the most appropriate program based on Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

For preschool, those services can be provided in day care, a regular preschool or any other program the child attends.

The parent has due process rights under Federal and State laws to be involved and ensure that their child receive an appropriate education. If the parent disagrees with decisions made by the CSE, they must request a follow-up meeting, mediation or impartial hearing.

Types of Programs

When thinking about your “end goal,” you should be aware of the vast continuum of services and supports that are available within the special education field. Once a child is identified as a “student with special needs,” the team will consider the entire continuum of services and agree on the most appropriate program. This continuum includes the following programs:

  • General education
  • General education with related services
  • General education with SETSS*
  • Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT)*
  • Special Class 12:1
  • Special Class 12:1:1
  • State Approved Non  Public School (NPS)
  • District 75 programming
  • Day Treatment Program
  • Residential Treatment Center

Please refer to our glossary of special education terms*

Glossary of Important Special Education Terms

  • 1975 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act) was developed to ensure that every child with special education needs has access to the General Education Curriculum.
  • CBST: Central Based Support Team
  • CSE: Committee on Special Education
  • CPSE: Committee on Pre-school Education
  • FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education
  • IEP: Individualized Educational Plan
  • IESP: Individualized Educational Service Plan
  • ICT: Integrated Co-Teaching
  • LRE: Least Restrictive Environment
  • SEIT: Special Education Itinerant Teacher
  • SETSS: Special Education Teacher Support Services


How we can help

A special education consultant is there to support the parent through the process from identification to placement. The consultant will make referrals for evaluation, provide resources for services, review all documentation, speak with all stakeholders, develop a list of appropriate programs and supports and create a strategic plan. Our consultants will assess and observe the student, attend school and IEP meetings and interface with evaluators and special education attorneys.

We have also created the “Parent’s Survival Kit for the Special Education Process.” In our consultations, we will go through each and every step.

Parents Survival Kit for the Special Education Process

  • Overview
  • Parent Questionnaire
  • Important phone numbers
  • Developmental Pediatricians
  • Evaluators
  • Legal Advocates/Lawyers (who specialize in educational advocacy)
  • Best private special education placements
  • Public vs. Private schools
  • Integrated vs. self-contained vs. general education placements
  • Tour checklist- What to look for
  • Private evaluation sites
  • Helpful tips/Resources
  • Specialized recreation programs