Teacher works with student

An Overview of Special Education

Special education is designed to meet unique needs of children with special needs, ages 3 through 21. Military OneSource offers tools and resources to help you navigate the system. Start here to learn about the special education process, including eligibility, relevant regulations, moving (including overseas) and graduating or leaving school.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act assists with early intervention services for eligible children, birth to age 3, and special education services for eligible children, ages 3 to 21, in three specific areas:

  • Identification
  • Evaluation
  • Delivery

Children qualify for special education based on guidelines set by the state and Department of Defense.

Relevant regulations

The U.S. Department of Education uses specific regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in public schools in the United States and its territories. States then create guidance to supplement these regulations. You can find state regulations on state education agency websites.

The Department of Defense school system operates under Department of Defense policy as outlined in Department of Defense Instruction 1342.12, "Implementation of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents," June 17, 2015.


The act also protects your child's educational progress when you move to a new school district. School districts must provide comparable services that honor the previous school's individualized education plan. Keep in mind, the new school district may not necessarily recreate the same program.

Bring current copies of your child's IEP and eligibility records before transferring to start similar services immediately in your new location.

Moving overseas

The Department of Defense Education Activity special education website lists special education relocation suggestions and contacts for families moving overseas. Parents should contact the responsible special education coordinator if a child receiving special education also requires:

  • Special equipment
  • Assistive technology
  • Individualized paraprofessional support

Graduating or leaving school

Young adults with disabilities can find a number of continuing education and work opportunities within their communities. You can help find these opportunities by calling your local state vocational rehabilitation program.

Learn how to advocate for your child within the school system by contacting your Parent Training and Information Center. Contact a Military OneSource special needs consultant if you have any questions or concerns regarding the care and education of your family member with special needs.