Special Education Programs
Starting as early as age three in preschool, San Antonio public school districts offer several special education programs to their eligible students. Our public schools’ free special needs services are personalized for each individual child, and the special education staff are thoroughly trained and equipped to support students based on their specific needs. Students with disabilities are identified and evaluated and then given a plan of action that embodies their particular needs and unique circumstances.
Federal law defines an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more critical life activities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (or IDEA) legislation ensures that students with a disability are given Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) tailored to their specific needs. In the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, discrimination based on disability is prohibited, and the requirements of students with disabilities must be met just as the needs of non-disabled students are met. Some children can be covered for services under Section 504 who do not meet the IDEA criteria, as Section 504 includes a broader definition of disability than that of IDEA. Some conditions that qualify as disabilities include dyslexia, epilepsy, heart disease, specific learning disabilities, autism, diabetes, allergies, low vision, poor hearing, or chronic illnesses.
Parents concerned about their child’s speech, physical, and/or emotional development are invited to contact their district’s special education department or their home campus to set up a free evaluation. The testing process begins as early as age three.
The Individualized Education Program (or IEP) is updated every year and includes goals for each child, written by teachers, parents, and staff. The IEP meeting where the student’s IEP is created and discussed is called the ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal).
For children and students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), teachers or parents must first request an evaluation for disability before the school can create an IEP.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) coordinates special services to blind children or those with a visual impairment (VI), DeafBlind (DB), and deaf or hard of hearing (DHH). The TEA collaborates with the 20 Education Service Centers (ESCs), the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).
Services for students with sensory impairment can be found here.
School Support and Accommodations
The ARD committee and IEP can specify that special transportation services are necessary for the student to gain a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Those students are eligible for no-cost transportation services. The ARD committee evaluates the student’s disability, communication skills, the location of special education services, and the child’s reliance on specialized equipment to decide if a child is eligible for these transportation services.
Parents and students are highly encouraged to take advantage of the vast array of IDEA special education resources that are available in San Antonio public school districts. With the right tools and educational plans, children with physical and/or learning disabilities can flourish in the public school environment.
Benefits to students involved in special education:
- Special education teachers and resources can help all kids in an inclusive classroom, not just special ed students.
- Special education programs provide long-lasting benefits throughout a child’s life, including more independence, less chance of depression, and higher self-esteem.
- Students with learning disabilities are more eager to learn in a classroom with other students who don’t have the same limitations.