Specially Designed Instruction & Transition Planning

Special education ensures that all eligible students with disabilities are entitled to a "free, and appropriate public education" that is designated to meet their unique needs and to prepare them for post-secondary outcomes and independent living. Special education provides specialized instruction and related services to enable the student with a disability to have access to, and make progress in, the State curriculum in the regular classroom to the maximum extent appropriate. Services are provided as part of a written Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services

A child becomes eligible for special education when the IEP team identifies the child as having a disability and in need of specially designed instruction. The disability must have educational impact. Students age 3 years to 21 years are eligible to receive special education, and must be evaluated and determined eligible based upon one of the following categories under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

  • Autism

  • Deaf

  • Deaf-Blindness

  • Developmental Delay

  • Emotional Disability

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Intellectual Disability

  • Orthopedic Impairment

  • Other Health Impairment

  • Specific Learning Disability

  • Speech or Language Impairment

  • Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Visual Impairment

  • Multiple Disabilities

A disability category does not determine the amount or type of service. This is determined by the IEP team, including the parents, and is based on the unique individualized strengths and needs of the child. To learn more about special education services and the IEP team process, visit our Publications page.

Secondary Transition Planning: From School to Postsecondary Outcomes

For students to successfully exit high school prepared for college, career, and community, early planning is crucial. In Maryland, transition planning and the delivery of transition services begins during the IEP year in which the student turns 14. The IDEA stresses the need for educators, parents, and community agencies to work together to support the student as he or she works toward postsecondary goals and outcomes. The Maryland State Department of Education Secondary Transition Planning Guide for Individuals with Disabilities focuses on the movement of students with disabilities from school to postsecondary outcome, and provides information to students, parents, educators, and community agencies about the transition process.


Maryland State Department of Education
Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services

200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Office: (410) 767-0244