Special Education Referrals: Process & Timeline

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn about the process for special education referrals, including an overview of each step from referral to placement, as well as the timeline involved.

Special Education Referrals: Process & Timeline

Sometimes, even with quality instruction, a child does not progress as expected. Other times, a child displays concerning behaviors. In either situation, a special education referral, a formal request for evaluation for special education eligibility, may be made, either by the student's teachers or at the request of the student's parent or guardian. As an educator, you will need to be familiar with the steps and timeline of the referral process.


When teachers make the referral, this is often after the student has not responded to support interventions such as Response to Intervention (RTI) or Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). In RTI and MTSS, the student will receive increasing levels of support, either academic or behavioral. For example, Devlin is in the sixth grade and has been unsuccessful academically. His English Language Arts teacher has implemented twelve weeks of increasing and targeted reading supports, but Devlin continues to struggle. His teacher meets with her school's MTSS team, and the committee decides to refer Devlin for evaluation.

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