A variety of tools and strategies are used to gather information to determine whether or not a student is eligible for special education. The evaluation process establishes whether or not a child has an exceptionality (disability or giftedness) and has a need for special education and related services. Students must meet two criteria to be enrolled in special education:

  1. Does the student have a disability?
  2. Does the student need specially designed instruction to benefit from the general education curriculum?

Areas of Exceptionality

State and federal regulations have been established to define children with exceptionalities. A child with an exceptionality means a child evaluated in accordance with the federal and/or state regulations as meeting eligibility criteria under one or more of the following categories.  Additional information about exceptionality criteria in Kansas is available in KSDE's Eligibility Indicators document available online.

Autism Deaf/Blind Developmental Delay
Emotional Disturbance Hearing Impairment Intellectual Disability
Orthopedic Impairment Other Health Impairment Specific Learning Disability
Speech/Language Impairment Traumatic Brain Injury Visual Impairment


How Is a Student Found Eligible for Special Education? 
Source: Kansas State Department of Education: Guide to Special Education

Special education services are support services for students with an exceptionality. In order for a student to be eligible for special education services, the student must first be determined to have an exceptionality and need specialized instruction.

Child find is an ongoing process that school staff use to locate and identify students who may need special services. In Kansas, child find for preschool-aged students 3 to 5 years of age is called screening. Screening may consist of observations, interviews, and assessments that would identify a disability or a developmental delay.

For children in kindergarten through 12th grade, child find is accomplished through general education interventions. Child find is a first step in the district’s efforts for early intervention to meet the needs of students based on their response to intervention. After a student has been identified as needing additional support from the classroom teacher to meet expectations, supplemental intensified instruction is attempted to help the student learn. The teacher keeps track of student progress. If the teacher, parent or someone else in the school decides a child needs additional support, a team meets to consider the student’s needs in the area of concern.

The purpose of general education interventions is to see to what extent adjustments or changes need to be made to the general education curriculum and/or environment in order for the student to successful. The student’s educational team works together to identify the appropriate academic or behavioral interventions, implement the interventions, and assess the results of the intervention. If the interventions are beyond what could be provided by general education and requires specialized instruction, the team would refer the student for an initial special education evaluation.

An evaluation must assess the student’s needs in all areas related to the suspected area of exceptionality. In the initial evaluation information is collected to:

  • decide if the student has an exceptionality based on eligibility criteria set by the Kansas Department of Education; 

  • decide if special education services are needed for the student to benefit from his/her education program; identify the student’s individual educational strengths and needs and to provide a basis for appropriate intervention.

The team determines if the student is eligible for services using the following components:

  • the student must have an exceptionality;

  • and the student must have a need for special education services.

Parents are given a copy of an evaluation report that documents the team’s decision regarding eligibility and the reasons for that decision. If the student is determined eligible and in need of services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed and special education can begin.