All parents can positively impact their children’s learning and healthy development, and when families, schools and communities partner together, schools thrive and students benefit. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to navigate the educational system and know how to best work with district and school personnel. Often times, parents of students with disabilities face additional challenges. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has developed some web pages and resources specifically for parents of students with disabilities.
A good starting place for parents of students with disabilities
- A Parent's Guide - Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois.
This document is available in English and Spanish. The appendices also include quick references, a glossary of terms, and sample letters.
The Illinois Student Records Keeper: For Parents of Students Who Receive Special Education Services.
This booklet is for parents to use to keep important information about their child and his/her special education and related services. It is a companion to A Parent’s Guide - Educational Rights and Responsibilities: Understanding Special Education in Illinois.
Need Additional Information or Support?
If you have a child with a disability, you may decide to hire a paraprofessional or a "lay advocate” to assist you in ensuring that your child's educational needs are met. These advocates, who are not attorneys, may be able to assist with consultation, letter writing, or meetings with schools.
For certain circumstances, a parent may prefer to hire an attorney for assistance.
Early resolution is an informal means for districts and parents to resolve complaints at the local level. It is not uncommon for disagreements to occur between parents and school districts regarding a child's special education services.
Those disagreements can often be resolved at the local level with open communication between the parties. The process of resolving disagreements at the local level can be a quick alternative to using a state-sponsored dispute resolution system, and can have the added benefit of improving communication between both parties in the future.
If an individual believes that a school district has not complied with the law or that a child's educational rights as been violated, the individual should try to resolve the issues with the local school district, through the following steps:
- Communicating directly with the school staff, principal, superintendent, or director of the special education cooperative.
- Requesting an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting to discuss the issues with the IEP team.
- Utilizing the state-sponsored mediation system to resolve the areas of concern. Additional information about mediation may be found on the
Parents seeking guidance on how to resolve disputes at the local level may contact the Special Education Division of the Illinois State Board of Education at 217/782-5589, or through the agency's toll-free parent line at 866/262-6663 and ask to speak to a consultant
Directors of Special Education
Illinois' mediation service is designed as a means of resolving disagreements regarding special education services, placement and related services to children enrolled in Illinois public schools.
A complaint investigation is a formal process where a person submits a signed, written complaint alleging that the school district has violated one or more of the special education rules and regulations
Parent’s Guide Chapter on Conflict Resolution
Webinar for Parents: Special Education Dispute Resolution Options
Directors of Special Education
Educational Surrogate Parents
Educational Surrogate Parent has the responsibility to ensure that the school provides the student with a free, appropriate public education.
Eligibility / Disability Areas
Disability Areas for Special Education
The Special Education Categories site includes information, research, resources, and best practices on the following program areas: Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairments, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment.
Parent’s Guide Chapter on Eligibility Categories
- The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) Fact Sheets on Disability Categories posted in English and Spanish
Forms for Special Education
Home-School Community Partnerships
This webpage provides tips and resources for school personnel to involve parents in the educational process, including a link to the new ISBE Family Engagement Framework. This site also contains resources for parents.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
New Illinois Learning Standards for English/Language Arts and Math
Placement and Least Restrictive Environment
This web page provides access to a great variety of resources, tools and information related to secondary transition including, but not limited to: an age-appropriate transition assessment, measurable post-school goals, transition plan development, and linkages to web resources that cover a range of topics related to secondary transition. The Transition Outreach Training for Adult Living (TOTAL) Project training modules and resources can also be accessed here.
Parent’s Guide Chapter on Post-Secondary Transition
Understanding PUNS: A Guide to Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services
The Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, develops and array of supports for adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Possible services include in-home supports, respite care, training programs, job coaches, residential living arrangements, adaptive equipment, etc. Funding is limited and prioritized based on need for services. It is critically important for families to register their son/daughter for PUNS (the ‘doorway’ for these services) well before he/she transitions from school to adult life.
Webinars for Parents: Transition from School to Adult Life: What Families Need to Know
Response to Intervention (RtI)
This page has been archived. The content on this page may no longer be in effect.