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Special Education Resources for Families

Our resources are intended to help families partner collaboratively with IEP Teams and to make overall decisions about special education services for their children with disabilities eligible for special education services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). We hope these tools and this information will help you navigate through your journey in partnering with your school districts.

On this page, you will find information about:

The Role of Parents in Special Education

Parents play an important role in the education of their children, especially parents of children who are identified as having disabilities. The law requires that parents and school personnel work together to provide children with appropriate educational services. The Agency of Education (AOE) recognizes that there is great diversity among those serving in the critical role of parent, caregiver, guardian, etc and the term “parent” may not fully align with each family’s dynamic and configuration. However, for consistency across our documents and guidance, the AOE utilizes how “parent” is defined in the IDEA regulations, and who can act as parent according to the IDEA.

According to the regulations that implement the IDEA, “[p]arent means — (1) A biological or adoptive parent of a child; (2) A foster parent; (3) A guardian generally authorized to act as the child’s parent, or authorized to make educational decisions for the child (but not the State if the child is a ward of the State); (4) An individual acting in the place of a biological or adoptive parent (including a grandparent, stepparent, or other relative) with whom the child lives, or an individual who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare; or (5) A surrogate parent. If more than one party meets the definition of a parent, the biological or adoptive parent must be presumed to be the parent for IDEA purposes unless the biological or adoptive parent does not have legal authority to make educational decisions for the child. Additionally, if a judicial decree or order identifies a specific person or persons as having authority to make educational decisions on behalf of the child, that person must be presumed to be the parent. [34 C.F.R. § 300.30]

Parent Rights in Special Education

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 and Agency of Education rules, parents have specific rights concerning their participation in the special education process. These documents should help guide you through this process.

Special Education Acronyms/Initialisms List

This is a list of acronyms of technical terms.

Essential Special Education Resources 

The Essential Special Education Resources document is designed to provide a basic suite of resources: laws, processes in the form of webinars, and documents in the Special Education Process.

Act 173

Act 173 of 2018 is an act relating to enhancing the effectiveness, availability and equity of services provided to students who require additional support. Learn more on the Agency of Education Act 173 webpage

Act 173 also required a revision to the special education rules scheduled to take effect in July of 2022. For a calendar of events, guidance, tools, and other supports for the implementation of the rule changes please visit the Special Education Rule Changes page.

Alternate Assessments

All publicly funded students enrolled in grades 3-8 and 11 in Vermont schools must take state assessments. While most students participate in the general statewide assessments with no accommodations, a small percentage of students take the general assessment using approved accommodations when necessary. An even smaller number of students (approximately 500) participate in the assessment accountability system using an alternate assessment. The alternate assessment allows students with significant cognitive disabilities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills on core academic content and for their performance scores to be included in school accountability.

Dispute Resolution: Mediation, Due Process and Administrative Complaints

Parents of a student receiving special education services who disagree with decisions made by the school regarding a student's identification, eligibility, evaluation, Individualized Education Program (IEP) or placement have three options available for resolving disputes with the school. These options include administrative complaints, mediation, and a due process hearing.

English Learners (formerly English Language Learners) and Special Education

English Language Learners in Vermont: Distinguishing Language Difference from Disability

Hazing, Harassment and Bullying

Per Act No. 129 of 2012, the Secretary of Education established the Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying Prevention Advisory Council (HHB) to provide advice and recommendations on harassment, hazing, and bullying prevention strategies and resources, and to coordinate statewide activities related to the prevention of and response to harassment, hazing, and bullying.

Independent Schools Serving Special Education Students

Learn about independent schools serving special education students, including an application and a list of approved schools.

Restraint and Seclusion (Rule 4500)

Learn more about the Vermont State Board of Education rules around restraint and seclusion, the work to create and maintain a positive and safe learning environment in schools, and guidlines to ensure that students are not subjected to inappropriate use of restraint or seclusion. 

State Agencies and Departments Supporting Families of Children with Disabilities

  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) is a national membership association dedicated to educational equity and excellence for children and youth experiencing homelessness. NAEHCY’s vision is that every child and youth experiencing homelessness is successful in school, from early childhood through higher education.

  • The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) is dedicated to improving results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities ages birth through 21 by providing leadership and financial support to assist states and local districts.

  • Vermont Assistive Technology Program - Disabilities, Aging and Independent living, (ACT) programs help individuals of all ages find accessible solutions to overcome barriers at home, work and in the community as related to disability and aging-related needs.
  • Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI) is the only private agency to offer training, services, and support to visually impaired Vermonters. Our mission is to enable Vermonters who are blind or visually impaired, to be more independent, cultivate adaptive skills and improve their quality of life.
  • Vermont Association of the Deaf is a nonprofit organization dedicated to: protect the rights of the deaf individuals and their families to accessible services; empower deaf individuals to exercise self-determination and independence; advocate for equal opportunities in social, educational, and employment opportunities in the State of Vermont.
  • The Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Partnership, under the umbrella of the University of Vermont Medical Center includes UVM CDCI CARES and UVMMC DHHDB ESP. The following services are provided under the partnership; Consultation, ASL/Bilingual, Educational Audiology, Direct Instruction by Teachers of the Deaf, Speech and Language evaluations and ongoing instruction, Evaluation and Technical Assistance. Contact Information: Ileene Therrien at UVMMC DHHDB Educational Services Program or Valerie LeClair at UVM CDCI CARES.
  • Vermont Department of Human Services (DHS) promotes healthy behaviors such as eating a healthy diet, having regular physical activity, and not smoking or abusing alcohol or other drugs.

  • Vermont Department of Mental Health (DMH) resides under the Agency of Human Services and has the same critical mission in mind: to improve the conditions and well-being of Vermonters and protect those who cannot protect themselves. Vermonters will have access to effective prevention, early intervention, and mental health treatment and supports as needed to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities.

  • Vermont's Education for Homeless Education ensures that homeless students have equal access to the same free, appropriate, public education (including public preschool) provided to other Vermont children, with the opportunity to meet the same challenging state content and student performance standards.

  • Vermont Family Network (VFN) - VFN's mission is to empower and support all Vermont families of children with special needs. We envision a world where all Vermont families are able to help their children reach their greatest potential. The values which guide our work are: family-centered, respect, collaboration, making a difference, and accessibility.
  • Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health (VFF) exists to support families and children where a child or youth, age 0-22, is experiencing or at risk to experience emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. Providing families with peer support and information; empowering families, youth and young adults to navigate service and support systems, advocating for accessible, flexible and quality family centered and driven services on a local, state and national level.
  • Vermont Higher Education Collaborative (VT-HEC) is a non-profit; with the mission of addressing personnel and training needs related to improving education outcomes for all students. We focus our efforts on addressing areas that are of critical importance and high-need such as Early Childhood, Special Education and low-incidence disability areas such as Autism Spectrum Disorders.
  • Vermont's Interdisciplinary Team (I-Team)'s mission is to assist local teams of families, educators, and other service providers in the delivery of quality educational services to students with intensive special education needs through technical assistance, professional development, training, support for systems change, and family support.
  • Vermont Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (VTPBIS) is a state-wide effort designed to help school teams form a proactive, school-wide, systems approach to improving social and academic competence for all students. Schools in Vermont are engaged in using a formal system of positive behavioral supports in their schools.

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