Getting Started with Special Education

Where to Start


Grant Wood AEA supports educators, parents, and the communities we serve as we work together toward one ultimate goal—to improve student learning.Our special education experts can help parents through the potentially overwhelming processes and systems related to their student’s learning.

Birth- age 3: Early ACCESS

Infants and toddlers under the age of 3 are eligible to receive Early ACCESS early intervention services. Early ACCESS is a partnership between families with young children (birth to age 3) and providers from the Iowa Departments of Education, Public Health and Human Services, Child Health Specialty Clinics and Iowa's AEAs. Families and Early ACCESS staff work together to identify, coordinate and provide needed services and resources that help families assist their infants and toddlers who have either a developmental delay, or have a condition that has a high probability of later delays if early intervention services are not provided.

Age 3- 5 Early Childhood Services

If your child is between the ages of 3 to 5 years, is not yet enrolled in school, and you have concerns about his/her development, you may contact GWAEA for more information about its Early Childhood Services. Grant Wood AEA's Early Childhood pecial education professionals provide training and serve as a resource to early childhood special education teachers in public schools, early childhood providers in community settings such as preschool, child care and Head Start programs to meet the developmental learning needs of young children. Also, families and early childhood providers may request information about appropriate expectations for children's development.

Age 5-21

Schools and the AEA use a process called Child Find to help identify and evaluate students who are eligible for special education services. A parent may request an evaluation by contacting an administrator at the student's school.

Terms and Processes

Learn more about foundational terms used in special education.




Getting started with special ed terms

Alternate test options for students with disabilities who are unable to take standardized exams.

System where students who are eligible for special education services are identified, located, evaluated and provided with needed services.

Commonly known as home schooling, competent private instruction is provided to a child in Iowa in a setting other than a public school district or accredited nonpublic school. Contact us to learn how GWAEA can help.

Protecting personally identifiable information of students receiving special education services.

Assistance for students who have not been identified as needing special education services, but who need additional academic and/or behavioral assistance to enable them to be successful in a general education environment.

Parent's ability to give and revoke consent of special education services.

The administration of appropriate disciplinary procedures for students with disabilities.

Over-representation of minority students identified with a learning disability or other type of disability under the IDEA. When a minority group's numbers in special education are statistically higher than they should be, they are considered disproportionate.

All districts are required to develop a District Developed Service Delivery Plan for Special Education services.

Special education and related services provided to students qualified for special education outside of the normal school year.

Providing general supervision of special education under the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Iowa Administrative Rules of Special Education (IAC Chapter 41) and Iowa Code Chapter 256B.

Circumstances where a student’s medical condition warrants the need for services to be available outside a school setting.

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) focuses on the child and family and the services that a family needs to help them enhance the development of their child. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) focuses on the educational needs of the child.

Information, resources and services that create safe environments where students can learn.

Safeguards designed to protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents.

Services to facilitate high school students with disabilities from secondary special education to meaningful, quality adult life activities.

A report by the Iowa Department of Education on the State's performance on specific special education indicators provides information about student performance as well as area education agency and district compliance.

Ensures a person will be notified and have an opportunity to be heard before any public entity can change his or her rights.

The right of a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 to the education and support services necessary to meet each of his or her identified needs at no cost to the parent.

The least restrictive environment (LRE) is the environment where a student is able to learn and reach the goals on the individualized education plan (IEP). The LRE should be in the general education environment to the extent appropriate. The least restrictive environment may be different for each child and based on the subject being taught.

A report by the Iowa Department of Education on the State's performance on specific special education indicators provides information about student performance as well as area education agency and district compliance.