It seems like groups usually meet as teams for special education purposes. What exactly are these teams and why do they meet?

Local education agencies create a variety of teams to support and make decisions for students who they suspect may have a disability or know have a disability. Building-level teams may make decisions at the pre-referral level (before a student is referred for special education services) and at the referral level. They may be known as child study teams, teacher assistance teams, or multidisciplinary teams.

These teams meet to assist general education teachers with a variety of activities, which may include strategies to teach and support students in the classroom at the pre-referral level (to determine if more student information is needed and/or if a referral to special education services is advised). These teams may be separate teams or a unified team.

Factual Information

Once a student is identified as a student who has a disability, the composition of the student's individual education plan (IEP) team is determined. This team is responsible for developing and implementing a student's educational program related to the student's disability and need for special education services. At the early childhood level the team is called the individualized family service plan (IFSP) team.

School districts may have district-wide teams such as an interagency team with personnel who participate regularly with professionals from other agencies such as rehabilitation services, social services, law enforcement agencies, and parent advocacy organizations. Their purposes may vary, but in general they exist to improve services to students who have disabilities beyond a student's academic needs and to assist in transition services from public schools to post-high school settings. Another district-wide, building level, and/or interagency team may be at the early childhood level. These teams meet to determine and provide comprehensive services to children suspected of having a disability or who have a disability and their families.

Classroom Activities

The organization of teams and processes to support students are most often unique to local education agencies. It is important to become informed about your own district's procedures for pre-referral, referral, and IEP teams for students who have disabilities. Contact a special educator in your school/district or check with appropriate personnel at the central office and ask for more information about what expectations they have for your participation as a member of the team.


Find a colleague who has served on a team similar to the one on which you have been asked to serve. Ask your colleague to share their experiences about participating on the team and ask their advice about how you might best prepare for a meeting.