How to Start the Special Education Process in Montgomery County, MD

By Frances Shefter, Education Advocate and Attorney April 27, 2021

Being a parent is the most rewarding yet challenging job in the world.  Realizing that your child might have a disability is scary and overwhelming. Moving from another country, state or county can also be overwhelming.  What do you do?  Who do you call?  Where do you start?  Here are some pointers.

First, figure out which department in Montgomery County Public Schools can assist.  There are three possibilities.  If your child is newborn through 34 ½ months, Montgomery County Infant and Toddlers (MCITP) is your first call.   If your child is three years old through Kindergarten, the Child Find Office is your first call. Finally, if your child is Kindergarten through 21, you call your local assigned school, sometimes called the in-boundary school.  If you are unsure of your child’s assigned school, you can locate it here.  

During the initial call, you will provide all information that you have, including any diagnosis and any outside evaluations.  Do not worry if you do not have any yet.  In this case, you explain the areas of concern.  There are several areas, including but not limited to, not meeting milestones, speech, gross motor skills, or fine motor skills.  Even if you do not know which category, just explain your specific concern about your child.  If you have outside evaluations, a meeting will most likely be scheduled to review the evaluations and determine next steps.  If you do not have evaluations, an evaluation with the appropriate specialists will be scheduled.  Once the evaluations are complete, a meeting will be scheduled to review the evaluations.

At the meeting, the full IEP team (LEA representative, regular education teacher, special education teacher, Psychologist, appropriate service providers and YOU), will review all evaluations and discuss eligibility for special education services.  If your child is deemed eligible, a meeting to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be scheduled.  Sometimes, the IFSP or IEP will be developed at the eligibility meeting.

If your child already has an IEP when transferring into the county, the county must provide what is called “comparable services” until an eligibility meeting is held.  “Comparable services” means similar to the services on the IEP developed by the other school district.  For example, if your child’s IEP had 30 minutes a week of speech therapy, the school needs to provide this until the meeting.        

If you are still overwhelmed and want to talk through the process or have me participate with you during the process, please contact my office at 301-605-7303 so we can help you have a stress-free IEP experience.