Woman speaks to child

Children with Special Education Needs

Military families know all about change and adapting to new schools and places. Learning how to cope is a big part of building your family's strength.

And when a family member has special needs, you need extra tools for special education–including help with your individual education program, transferring to new schools, all the way to graduation.

Special education and your child's IEP

Special education is "instruction developed for children ages 3 through 21 with special needs." Here's an overview of how special education works, and how—as guardian of your family's welfare—you can make it work better for you.

  • The Special Needs Parent Toolkit from the Department of Defense is a thorough and helpful resource for walking you through the special education process. It describes each step of the process.
Special Education Process
  • Once your child's eligibility for special education is determined, an Individual Education Program, or IEP, is developed. It's a written plan for the instruction and services that can help your child succeed. This is your child's roadmap for education.

What happens when you move?

The IEP is vital for military families, because as you move, the plan goes with you. Thanks to the Individual Disabilities Education Act, school districts must provide comparable services that honor the previous school's individualized education plan (even though the new school district may not recreate the same program).

  • Bring current copies of your child's IEP and eligibility records to your new location before transferring to start similar services immediately.
  • Learn how to advocate for your child within the school system by contacting your Parent Training and Information Center.

Special education overseas in Department of Defense schools

The Department of Defense Education Activity is globally positioned, and has 168 accredited schools in 11 countries in Europe, the Pacific and the Americas. Its mission statement embraces the notion that all students will be successful in their schools, and they offer substantial services for eligible students.

Learn more about its Special Education and Early Intervention services here. A handy directory goes into detail about "Early Intervention, Special Education and Related Services in OCONUS Communities."

Military OneSource and the Exceptional Military Families Program

Your military community is committed to helping you and your family with special needs. And that means providing you with the services your family needs to thrive. Put us to work to enhance your child's special education.

  • Enroll in the Exceptional Military Family Program, or EMFP. This program connects you with specialty consultants who will help you access the wide array of services available to your family and navigate through the process.
  • The Exceptional Family Member Program provides family support, education and much more. Locate the program office near you by visiting MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
  • Tap into other Military OneSource resources: Access webinars, up-to-date information, advice about financial services, and extensive connections to resources and services. You can also contact us anytime for a specialty consultation about education, finances, support groups, effects on other family members and more. Visit our Benefits and Resources pages to learn more.

Contact a Military OneSource special needs consultant with questions or concerns regarding the care and education of your family member with special needs.