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If you think that a child might require special education, the first step is a referral. A referral is made for gathering information about a child experiencing problems that interfere with learning.

A referral may be made by any individual with relevant information about the child. A referral may be made at any time and should be in writing.

See the Special Education Referral Letter Template in the box below.

Special Education Referral Letter Template

Next Steps

Following the referral, the school district must notify the parent  within seven days, and a referral conference must be held within  21 days from the date of the referral. 

Along with the information provided in the referral letter, any  information that may assist in determining whether a child has a  disability should be submitted, including: 

• results of a hearing and vision screening 

• a home or classroom behavior checklist 

• existing medical, social, or educational data 

• the need for assistive technology devices and services • examples of the child’s academic work 

• screening inventories 

After submitting the referral notice and other information, notice  of a referral conference shall be provided to the parents and a  referral conference scheduled. 

Referral Conferences

The purpose of a referral conference is to review all existing  information related to the student. The referral conference must  be attended by a minimum of three people: the principal or  designee, the teacher directly involved with the education of the  student, and the parent.

Other people with relevant information regarding the child may attend the referral conference, including the child. These  individuals are considered the student’s team. During the  referral conference, the school is required to inform the parents  of their rights and decide whether an evaluation of the student is  required.

If the referral conference decision is to evaluate, it may be  necessary to initiate a temporary placement for the student if  agreed upon by the parent and the school district. 

To initiate the entire process, a letter should be sent to the principal requesting a referral of the child for special education  testing. A request should be made for a conference and  supporting medical and other records may be attached. In any  case, all records should be brought to the conference. If the child  is aged zero to two, the letter should be addressed to the  appropriate Early Intervention Case Service Coordinator listed  in Appendix III. If the child is aged three to four, the letter should  be addressed to the relevant Education Cooperative. 


The contents of this fact sheet were created by Disability Rights  Arkansas (DRA) and are excerpted from the booklet titled A  Parent’s Guide: Civil Rights/Education. The purpose of the  booklet is to assist you as a parent or a professional in  understanding the educational process for students with  disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA) and related statutes, as well as is understanding rights  within the process. 

Disability Rights Arkansas is a federally-funded  nonprofit organization designated to implement advocacy and  protection programs in Arkansas. If you suspect your child has  a disability, we can help you protect your statutory rights and  attempt to secure appropriate services.  

As a Protection and Advocacy System (P&A), DRA is a private,  nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of eligible  clients through education, negotiation, and litigation. Services  include information and referrals, individual cases and system  advocacy, monitoring, investigations of abuse or neglect,  outreach and education, legislative tracking, and litigation. Visit Disability Rights Arkansas for more information.