Special Education Referral

Updated January 2017   Fact Sheet PDF


If you think that a child might require special education, the first step is a referral. A referral is made for gathering information about a child experiencing problems that interfere with learning.


A referral may be made by any individual with relevant information about the child. A referral may be made at any time and should be in writing. See a referral letter template on our fact sheets page at arlegalservices.org.


Next Step

Following the referral, the school district must notify the parent within seven days, and a referral conference must be held within 21 days from the date of the referral.


Along with the information provided in the referral letter, any information that may assist in determining whether a child has a disability should be submitted, including:

  • results of a hearing and vision screening
  • a home or classroom behavior checklist
  • existing medical, social, or educational data
  • the need for assistive technology devices and services
  • examples of the child’s academic work
  • screening inventories

After submitting the referral notice and other information, notice of a referral conference shall be provided to the parents and a referral conference scheduled.


Referral Conferences


The purpose of a referral conference is to review all existing information related to the student. The referral conference must be attended by a minimum of three people: the principal or designee, the teacher directly involved with the education of the student, and the parent.



Other people with relevant information regarding the child may attend the referral conference, including the child. These individuals are considered the student’s team. During the referral conference, the school is required to inform the parents of their rights and decide whether an evaluation of the student is required.



If the referral conference decision is to evaluate, it may be necessary to initiate a temporary placement for the student if agreed upon by the parent and the school district.


To initiate the entire process, a letter should be sent to the principal requesting a referral of the child for special education testing. A request should be made for a conference and supporting medical and other records may be attached. In any case, all records should be brought to the conference. If the child is aged zero to two, the letter should be addressed to the appropriate Early Intervention Case Service Coordinator listed in Appendix III. If the child is aged three to four, the letter should be addressed to the relevant Education Cooperative.



The contents of this fact sheet were created by Disability Rights Arkansas (DRA) and are excerpted from the booklet titled A Parent’s Guide: Civil Rights/Education. The purpose of the booklet is to assist you as a parent or a professional in understanding the educational process for students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and related statutes, as well as is understanding rights within the process.


Disability Rights Center of Arkansas is a federally-funded nonprofit organization designated to implement advocacy and protection programs in Arkansas. If you suspect your child has a disability, we can help you protect your statutory rights and attempt to secure appropriate services.


As a Protection and Advocacy System (P&A), DRA is a private, nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of eligible clients through education, negotiation, and litigation. Services include information and referrals, individual cases and system advocacy, monitoring, investigations of abuse or neglect, outreach and education, legislative tracking, and litigation. Visit arkdisabilityrights.org for more information.


This fact sheet is a collaboration of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc. These nonprofit organizations provide free legal assistance to eligible Arkansans who meet income, asset, and other guidelines. Legal assistance may also include advice and counsel, brief services, or full representation depending on the situation. For more information about civil legal aid in Arkansas, please visit arlegalservices.org. For information specific to Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., visit arlegalaid.org. Apply for services online or by calling 1-800-9-LAW-AID (1-800-952-9243).
The information and statements of law in this fact sheet should not be considered legal advice. This fact sheet is provided as a broad guide to help you understand how certain legal matters are handled in general. Courts may interpret the law differently. Before you take action, talk to an attorney and follow his or her advice. Always do what the court tells you to do.
Content provided by: Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc.


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