Special education is a service of the state public education system for children with disabilities. The Exceptional Children’s Division of the Department of Public Instruction oversees individualized instruction in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities.The Exceptional Children’s Division serves children ages 3-21. The Exceptional Children’s Preschool Program serves children from age 3 until kindergarten.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects the legal rights of children with disabilities in the education system. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has created a free PDF IDEA Parent Guide.
A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in North Carolina is a comprehensive guide published by Duke Children’s Law Clinic.
The Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC) operates a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) which offers workshops, individual assistance, information packets, and more on special education.
Understood.org, a website for ADHD and learning disabilities, has a school and learning resources page with information on special education eligibility evaluations, individual education plans (IEPs), 504 plans, and more.
Some children with disabilities may also be protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This law protects people from discrimination based on disability. Known as a 504 plan, these are less formal than an IEP but are still official school documents and are individualized for each child. 504 plans typically describe accommodations to the typical education system as opposed to services received under the special education system. Children with 504 plans may receive a number of accommodations such as extended time on tests, testing in a private setting, an allergen-free environment, more than the usual number of excused absences for medical purposes, and so on. 504 plans do not require as extensive of an evaluation as do IEPs.