If you have a child with an individualized education program, don’t be nervous about moving schools. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, ensures that all children with special needs have access to a free, appropriate public education and the tools needed to meet their educational goals — no matter where or how often your family moves.
The IDEA governs how states and public agencies, including the Department of Defense, provide early intervention, special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities from birth through age 21. Department of Defense Instruction/Manual 1342.12 “Provisions of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DoD Dependents” published on June 17, 2015 interprets IDEA for the Department of Defense.
When a student with an individualized education program transfers, the new school must:
- Provide free and appropriate public education. This principle makes sure every child, regardless of disability, has the right to a free public education tailored to achieve his or her highest potential.
- Include services comparable to those in your child’s current individualized education program. The new school provides interim services until the IEP team adopts the incoming IEP or develops and implements a new IEP.
Comparable services are provided if the child is identified as having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at the time of the transfer, the IEP was in effect at the previous school, or if the transfer was in the same academic school year.
You may be able to get a head start on registering your child in a new school and coordinating their IEP through the Advance Enrollment Initiative. This policy, in place in a number of states, waives the residency requirement for military families, allowing them to pre-enroll their children before arriving at the PCS destination.
The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children eases relocation issues by calling for the new school to provide special education services comparable to the previous school’s until it can create a new IEP.
Contact your EFMP Family Support provider to request a warm hand off to the gaining installation prior to a PCS. Your EFMP Family Support provider can provide information, resources, and referrals even before you’ve arrived at your location.
Your school liaison can help pave the way for your child’s transfer to a new school and assist with any other issues that arise with your child’s IEP or education in general.
Military OneSource offers a number of resources to help your family move successfully with an IEP.
- Download the Preparing for Your Move fact sheet for suggestions to consider before, during and after a move.
- Visit the EFMP & Me tool to create a customized checklist for your family. Review the Education checklist to learn more about IEPs and transferring schools.
- View the Military OneSource Facebook Live Special Education Discussion to hear two Exceptional Family Program representatives discuss ways to ensure a smooth transition in both special education and health care services.
- The EFMP podcast series, Episode 3, is another resource for tips on easing your medical and educational transitions when you move.
- The Education Directory for Children With Special Needs provides information to make informed decisions about your child’s education and early intervention services.
- The Directory of Early Intervention, Special Education and Related Services in OCONUS Communities identifies military communities in OCONUS locations with programs or services for children with special needs.
- The Special Care Organizational Record for Children with Special Health or Educational Needs and The Special Care Organizational Record for Young Adults With Special Needs can help you keep track of contacts, resources and your child’s progress and plan.
- Take the Moving With an Individualized Education Program MilLife Learning course to learn how to help make sure your child gets comparable services wherever you go.
It may take your child awhile to get used to the new surroundings and people, but over time, they will. Reach out to the new school and remain an active advocate for your child in developing the new individualized education program. As a member of your child’s IEP team at both the losing and gaining school, you play an important role in helping your child thrive.
Take advantage of available services offered by EFMP Family Support on your installation. Or, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use live chat to schedule an appointment with a special needs consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Appointments are available seven days a week.