Vermont expanded special education eligibility. What rule change does.

Vermont students now can more easily qualify for special education services.

A rule change went into effect July 1 that opens eligibility for students presenting deficits in functional skills. This change has been nearly two decades in the making following a federal definition interpretation change, according to Karen Price at Vermont Family Network, a federally-designated support center in Vermont for families of children with disabilities or health needs.

Price said this is a monumental change that has the potential to identify students earlier, get them the services they need sooner, as well as provide better long-term outcomes for children and families.

“The change should result in children being identified earlier. Because what we have found, especially with children with specific learning disabilities, is that children are often able to hide their difficulties earlier − they tend not to fall into that bottom 15th percentile,” Price said. “By the time they fall into that bottom 15th percentile, it’s been going on for a while and so they’re not getting the help that they need as early as they could have.”

Vermont expanded special education eligibility. What rule change does.

Here are what parents should know about the rule change and what they can do to find out if their child qualifies for special education.

Special education eligibility broadened to include functional skills

Prior to now, a child could receive special education services if their academic performance has habitually fallen in the bottom 15%. Allowing for functional skill deficits, and in particular social or behavioral impacts that prevent a child from succeeding, means more students could qualify for supports in the classroom. A student with high-functioning autism or dyslexia, which are often diagnosed later, may be able to access help sooner.