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The Referral Process

A referral is a formal request that your child be evaluated for special education services.


You or a school professional may make a referral if a disability is suspected. A disability can be any physical or mental problem or condition that significantly affects a child’s ability to perform in school.

If at any time you think your child may have a disability, you should request an evaluation for special education. ​

  • You should make the request in writing and give your reasons for the request. Suggest areas that you feel need to be examined. By making a referral, you start the special education ball rolling.

If your child is experiencing difficulties in school, consider requesting an intervention. 

  • If you and/or the school have noticed that the child’s performance falls below appropriate expectations and no disability is suspected, the school may suggest interventions often referred to as RTI instead of a referral for a special education evaluation.

  • Interventions include specialized instruction, strategies, and support for the child in the area of difficulty. Many schools have formal intervention plans and services.

  • If you and the school agree that the interventions might be successful, it may be reasonable to delay the referral for the special education evaluation and wait to see if the interventions succeed. 

If the school agrees to your referral for an evaluation of your child, discuss with the school’s staff how they will complete the evaluation and IEP process.

  • Each school has its own way of meeting the requirements of the special education process. It is to your advantage to understand what your school will do and how you can be involved.

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