Special education is a broad term that refers to specially designed instruction that meets the unique needs of a child with a disability. Special education provides support to children who need assistance in a variety of developmental areas. Services can include instruction in the classroom, at home or in hospitals and can range from a specific program or class for the child to access to specialists and modifications in the educational program such as in curriculum or teaching methods. The type of service varies based on the child’s needs, as educational disabilities can range from mild to severe and can include mental, physical, behavioral and emotional disabilities.

IEPs & Public Schools

A child’s special education curriculum is part of his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP). In order for a child to qualify for services, he/she must have met at least one of 13 categories of special education proven to adversely affect his/her educational performance.

In public schools, special education services are free. The Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires that children be offered Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). One feature of an appropriate education is that it is provided in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in which a student can progress with appropriate supports.

Getting Started

If you suspect your child may need special education services, the first step is to get him/her evaluated. You can request this free evaluation through your school district. If the evaluation reveals that your child does not have one of the qualifying disabilities, he/she may still qualify for services under Section 504 of the American Disabilities Act of 1973.

Day School Assistance

If your child attends a Jewish Day School, The Associated provides services through SHEMESH. SHEMESH staff works closely with school administration and other professionals to create a Student Support Team to meet the diverse needs of all day school students. SHEMESH uses a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach designed to provide early, effective assistance to students.

If a family requires testing for a student in a Jewish day school, they can apply to the Center for Jewish Education (CJE) for STARS (Student Testing Assistance Referrals & Support program) funding. Through this program, CJE will:

  • Recommend appropriate testing for students
  • Make a provider list available to all families
  • Pre-approve families for financial assistance, before assessment takes place
  • Pay providers up to 50 percent of remaining balance, after insurance reimbursement, up to $1,000 per child

In order to participate in the STARS program, families must have already contacted their public school system and completed the “Child Find” process before applying to the CJE for financial assistance. Families must apply before assessment takes place.

For more information, please contact MDSNAP.

Quick Links

Free Appropriate Public Education

Individualized Education Program


Section 504 of the American Disabilities Act of 1973

Maryland State Department Division of Special Education

A Guide on How to Get Scholarships and Grants for Students with Disabilities

Americans Live With an Autism Spectrum Disorder
of Children Have Been Diagnosed with a Developmental Disability