Special Education Resources

The page focuses on resources specific to navigating the special education process. In some cases these are purely educational and can supplement the information provided by Reading SEPAC, but some also provide helplines or information centers that you can call to discuss your specific circumstances and obtain advice and referrals.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education - The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is the state agency that oversees education. They have several resources available for parents. 

Parents Guide to Special Education - The definitive guide for parents was created in collaboration between DESE and FCSN. The full  PDF version can be found under FCSN. This shorter interactive version breaks out the essentials and includes "learn more" links. 

IEP Process Guide - Provides a detailed overview of the IEP process 

Disability Definitions and Related Links - Provides list of disabilities covered under IDEA and Massachusetts law

Guidelines for Special Education Parent Councils - If you are interested in learning more about SEPAC guidelines

Federation for Parents with Special Needs - FCSN is our parent organization and states their mission  is to "Provide information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners, and their communities. We are committed to listening to and learning from families, and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities."  FCSN provides a wealth of resources including training programs for parents and professionals and a information center parents reach out to directly with questions on special education in general or the specifics of their circumstances.

Information Center - General information center that can answer questions on a variety of special education topics

Massachusetts Family Voices - Access information, resources and support for all caregivers 

A Parent's Guide to Special Education - This is the definitive guide for parents created by FCSN and the department of education

Training - Training sessions for parents, caregivers and professionals offered throughout the year

Center for Parent Information and Resources - CPIR is the central hub for state parent centers nationally and is funded by the US Department of Education. The Federation for Children with Special Needs (see above) is the specific parent center for Massachusetts. As the national hub, CPIR has a great number of informational resources available for parents.

CPIR Online Resource Library - Provides letter based glossary for searching special education related topics

Massachusetts Advocates for Children: A non-profit organization who states their mission is "to remove barriers to educational and life opportunities for children and youth. We do so by advocating for and partnering with students and families; transforming school cultures to be inclusive, safe and supportive; and creating systemic change so all children and youth can learn, reach their potential, and thrive. We focus our advocacy on children and youth who face significant barriers, inequities, and/or discrimination because of their economic status, disability, race, ethnicity/culture, immigration status, English Learner status, and/or traumatic life experiences." They provide a general helpline and will offer suggestions, referrals and in certain circumstances provide advocates or legal resources at no cost. 

Pacer Center - Per there website, PACER Center "is a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities from birth to young adults.."  They provide a variety of materials on special education and are notable in particular for their national bullying prevention center, which provides an extensive collections of resources on bullying.

Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) - From their website " Initially funded in 1998, CADRE serves as the National Center on Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education on behalf of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. CADRE's major emphasis is on encouraging the use of mediation, facilitation, and other collaborative processes as strategies for resolving disagreements between families and schools about children's educational programs and support services." They offer a number of resources aimed at schools and families around managing disagreements and dispute resolution.     

Frequently Asked Questions 

Dispute Resolution Parent Guides - Guides for parents with accompanying videos walking through dispute process

Education Advocates - Provides an overview on advocates and suggested questions to ask 

A Tale of Two Conversations - Illustrative videos of effective and ineffective communication between a parent and administrator 

Wrightslaw - Pam and Peter Wright initially created this web sight to accompany the publication of their book and it contains a variety of articles, frequently asked questions etc. largely focused on special education law and advocacy, but with some potentially helpful arcticles providing suggestions on how best to navigate the special education process. Per the site, "parents, advocates, teachers, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for reliable, up-to-date information about special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities." 

From Emotions to Advocacy - Provides a concise outline of the options available to parents and caregivers for resolving disputes, though parents should note that the information is not specific to the state of Massachusetts

Do's and Don't of Parent Advocacy - Suggestions for navigating the special education process

Mistakes People Make - Discusses mistakes parents sometimes make in the specific education process and how to avoid

Understood - Understood is a nonprofit organization "dedicated to shaping the world for difference. We provide resources and support so people who learn and think differently can thrive — in school, at work, and throughout life." They provide a wealth of informational resources related to special education and specific disabilities.

National Center for Learning Disabilities:  Per their website "For more than 40 years, NCLD has worked to create a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social, and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work, and in life." The National Center for Learning Disabilities provides policy advocacy, scholarships and research related to special education.

The Children's Law Center of Massachusetts states that their mission is is to "promote and secure equal justice and to maximize opportunity for low-income children and youth by providing quality, culturally sensitive advocacy and legal services." They primarily offer legal services focused on economic disadvantaged children with special needs, but include some thorough write-ups on special education that are worth calling out.

The Disability Law Center is a private, non-profit organization who states their mission is "to provide legal advocacy on disability issues that promote the fundamental rights of all people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of Massachusetts." They provide information, referral, technical assistance and representation regarding legal rights and services for people with disabilities, including but not exclusive to educational services. 

We include them here for some thorough write-ups on special education laws that are worth calling out.

Early Childhood Education Degrees is primarily focused on on educators but includes some useful resources in particular on bullying that may be helpful for parents.

Please note that we at Reading SEPAC cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information presented on any third-party website listed on this site, nor do we endorse any informational content appearing on third-party websites of any of the providers listed. We endeavor only to provide a listing of potentially helpful organizations available. Its up to you, as a consumer, to do your own diligence and research.