Seattle Public Schools


Special Education

Special Education at SPS

The Special Education department works collaboratively with school and district leaders, teachers, students, and families to provide the tools, guidance, supports, and services needed to ensure access and success for students with disabilities.

Referral and Evaluation

A referral is the first step toward receiving special education services. A referral is a written request for evaluation, explaining why the student might need special education services. Evaluation determines if a student is eligible for special education services, and what those services might be. Read more about referral and evaluation.

Services and Accommodations

Special education services are the supports, settings, and instruction provided to an individual student, supplementing general education curriculums and settings. Read more about services and accommodations.

IEP (Individualized Education Program)

The IEP is a document that comprehensively describes the special education services an individual student receives. The format of an IEP is standardized, but the details are specific to each student. Each student’s IEP is developed by their IEP team. Services must align with the student’s established needs. Read more about IEP.

Transition and Adult Services (ages 16-21)

Transition is the ongoing process that helps your student successfully move from the K-12 school system to adult life. Transition planning takes a team. It is an ongoing and step-by-step process that uses information about your student to create goals for life after high school and a path to reach those goals. Read more about transition services.

Family Involvement and Resources

Resources for families of students who receive special education services. Find special education resources.

Getting Started

Each family receiving a diagnosis for their child will have their own unique experience, feelings, and perspective. Below is a letter written by a Seattle Public Schools Parent, reflecting their personal journey:

Like you, I am a parent of a child with a disability. His specific diagnosis is unimportant here; what matters is that we are sharing an experience with a complex emotional landscape. One that changes the course of our lives, touches our hearts, and colors all of our relationships.

A diagnosis rarely happens in a moment. It unfolds slowly – as small observations, intuitive insights, and comments from others (often unsolicited) start to coalesce into a picture. A picture that disrupts and demands more that we may feel we can give. Then come the short, sharp days when everything we know but hold at arms length is summarized in a diagnosis, an evaluation, or even a random email. Spelled out in black and white, it suddenly has a weight and significance we are rarely ready for.

At no time in our lives are we more in need of a village to help raise our child. And yet for most of us, one of the first feelings is a profound sense of being alone. Fortunately, you are not. In Seattle Public Schools, more that 7,000 families are traveling a similar path. More than 1,000 District Special Education Teachers, Paraeducators, and related staff choose to come to work each day to support students with disabilities.

Building your child’s village is not easy. It requires engagement when retreat is easier. It demands whole-heartedness when your heart feels broken. It needs trust when you feel betrayed by the universe. This is hard work but the benefits, I believe, far outweigh the effort.

Find a community of parents who understand and support you. Align yourself with people who help you feel healthy, hopeful, and empowered. Make space both for grief and for celebration.

Discover the ordinary in your extraordinary experience. Through repetition, these acts restore our resilience. They bolster our capacity to care for our children, our partners, our communities, and ourselves. They transform hope from a threat to a companion.

We parents form a curious sort of family, thrown together by fate. We are passionate, constantly adapting and growing with our experiences. Together we have strength and wisdom. I welcome all of you as partners, ready to transform the world into a more human, flexible, and dignified place for all of our children.

– Parent of a high school freshman in Seattle Public Schools