Houston-area public schools special education programs
Public school districts in the Houston and Gulf Coast areas offer an array of special education programs to all eligible students starting as early as preschool, age 3. Our special needs services are free and personalized for each child, and staff are highly trained and equipped to support students based on their needs. Students with disabilities are identified, evaluated, and given a course of action that embraces their specific needs and uniqueness.
An individual with a disability is defined by federal law as any person who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires that the needs of students with disabilities are to be met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. Though they are similar, Section 504 has a broader definition of disability, so some children who do not meet the IDEA criteria can still be covered for services under Section 504. Conditions that qualify as disabilities include specific learning disabilities, autism, dyslexia, diabetes, epilepsy, allergies, low vision, poor hearing, heart disease, or chronic illness.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is updated every year, includes goals for your child written by parents, teachers, and staff, and the meeting where the IEP is discussed and created is called the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD).
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) coordinates the provision of special services to children who are blind or have a visual impairment (VI), deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), or DeafBlind (DB). This coordination is through collaboration with the 20 Education Service Centers (ESCs), the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), and the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD).
Read more about services for students with sensory impairment here.
Students recommended by the ARD committee and whose IEP specifies that special transportation services are required to enable the student to obtain a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) are eligible for special transportation services. The ARD committee considers the student’s disability, the location of special education services, communication skills, and reliance on special equipment to decide if a child is eligible for free transportation services.
Parents who are concerned about their child’s physical, speech, and/or emotional development are encouraged to contact their home campus or their school district’s special education department to set up an evaluation. This testing process is free and can begin as early as age 3.
Students and parents are encouraged to take advantage of the many IDEA special education resources that are available in Houston-area public school districts. Children with learning disabilities and/or physical disabilities can flourish in the public school environment with the right tools and educational plans in place.
Additional benefits to students involved in special education:
- Studies show that all students benefit from the resources available in an inclusion classroom. The special education teacher can help all kids in an inclusion classroom, not just special education students.
- Special education has long-lasting benefits throughout a student’s life, including greater independence, fewer chances of depression, and higher lifelong self-esteem.
- Students with learning disabilities are more eager to learn in a classroom with other students who don’t have disabilities.