Special Education

Wilmette Public Schools District 39 offers a full continuum of Special Education services. Special education is instruction and related services provided by special education personnel or by a general education program that has been modified through the use of special education support services, supplementary aids, or other special programming.

District 39 follows state and federal laws that establish criteria for special education eligibility. The federal government recognizes 14 categories under which children may qualify for special education. These disabilities include: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, developmental delay, emotional disorder, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.

District 39 programs are aligned from K-8 to provide children similar program experiences as they move through our schools. However, the type of support is adjusted to be developmentally appropriate. Below is a brief schematic overview of K-8 programs.



Wilmette Public Schools District 39 provides a variety of supports and services to students with disabilities who are eligible for special education. In addition to Learning Behavior Specialists, who are special education teachers and serve students at all of our buildings, we have a variety of instructional and related services available for eligible students. These services are based on a comprehensive review of a child’s individual needs and goals. Services include adaptive P.E., assistive technology, behavior intervention specialists, itinerant vision and hearing impaired teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, and speech and language pathologists.


Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the District must provide appropriate special education and related services to students with disabilities to address their educational needs. If your student receives related services from the District through their Individualized Education Program ("IEP") document, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, nursing services, and speech and language therapy, you may request copies of related service logs developed and maintained by the District for your child. These related service logs include information regarding the type and duration of related services administered to your child.

If you have any questions regarding your child's special education services, please contact your child's case manager or building principal. If you have additional questions, you may contact Kristin Swanson, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at [email protected] or (847) 512-6004.


Certain children are identified at birth as having disabilities. The state has established an Agency named Child and Family Connections, which assists families in securing itinerant services (e.g. speech therapy, occupational therapy) for children identified at this age.

The District is responsible for transitioning children aged 0-3 to the District 39 Early Childhood Program. At the age of 2 1/2, Child and Family Connections notifies District 39 of a child in need of transition. The District has up to six months to complete any additional evaluations that the team recommends and then meet with parents to discuss whether continuing intervention is needed. A variety of options may be discussed with parents. Please contact Amanda Barton, Early Childhood Coordinator, at 847-512-6463 with any questions.


Wilmette District 39 offers a continuum of special education services to meet the unique educational needs of three- to five-year-old students with disabilities. The range of available services is designed in compliance with federal and state guidelines supporting the least-restrictive environment in which services can be provided. Least-restrictive environment means providing services in settings similar to programs provided to typical preschool children.

Preschool children are found eligible to participate in district services through an identification and assessment process. The assessment of preschool children focuses on the expectations and growth of the preschool child, and the evaluation of developmental skills, which are the foundation for academic and social learning. The assessed skill areas relate to academic functioning and are divided into five developmental domains: cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills, self-help skills, social skills, and speech and language skills.

Early Childhood Identification Procedures

External Placements

District 39 has a host of private and public options for providing special education programs when a District 39 program does not meet a child’s special educational needs. There are certain complex disabilities that require high levels of instructional support. These external programs are for children who have these intense instructional needs.

Special Services Abbreviations
Click on a term to see a full definition.

Understanding Section 504 Plans


There are primarily three bodies of federal law that protect the rights of children with disabilities. The first, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) governs "Special Education" as schools know it today. This law, while quite comprehensive, only provides direct programming for children with one of thirteen categories of disabilities, when in fact there are literally

The second body of law, which protects the rights of children with disabilities, is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA primarily provides for accessibility of the physical structure of a school. This includes washrooms, access to playgrounds, lift buses, etc. The ADA also prohibits discrimination against the disabled in school programming.

The third body of disability law is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prohibits discrimination against the disabled in all programs that receive federal funds, including public schools. Section 504 is a far-reaching law that extends protections to individuals with disabilities in most aspects of their lives. The procedures outlined in this report address Section 504 as it applies to schools.


Section 504 defines an individual with a disability as anyone who experiences a "mental, psychological or physiologic disorder that interferes with an individual's civil right to one or more major life activities." The list of major life activities includes: caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating.

Identifying students who qualify for a 504 Plan is usually not complicated. Some children, even though a disability can be documented, are not eligible for special education services under IDEA. These students could be evaluated to determine the need for a 504 Plan. Some examples could include students with health needs (e.g. life threatening allergy), with communicable diseases (e.g. HIV), with drug and alcohol dependency, who have been dismissed from or do not qualify for special education due to a lack of discrepancy, and those with ADHD (when not covered by IDEA).

In addition to school-identified concerns, a parent can document through testing by outside professionals that their child has a disability that interferes with learning (e.g. life threatening allergy).

When parents or school personnel identify a concern for which a 504 Plan might be appropriate, the principal will convene a meeting of a 504 planning team. The team, varies from student to student, and generally consists of the parent, the classroom teacher and any other school personnel with knowledge of the student that might be helpful (e.g. building nurse, psychologist, social worker, learning behavior specialist etc.). The 504 planning team then will determine if the child is disabled within the meaning of Section 504. Information used by the team may come from standardized measures, interviews with the child and parents, rating scales, observational data, adaptive behavior assessments, teacher records, social and cultural background data, criterion referenced measures, medical reports and/or records reviews. Upon its determination that a child is eligible under Section 504, the 504 planning team must determine what instructional accommodations or modifications are needed to meet the child's needs as they relate to the general educational setting.


There are four primary cases when a 504 Plan should be considered.

  • When an IEP team determines that a child no longer requires an IEP and a 504 Plan is needed to document the necessary general education accommodations or modifications to assure ongoing student success.

  • When an IEP team has conducted a case study and a student is found ineligible for special education under IDEA, the team will consider whether a disability under 504 is indicated.

  • When there is an identified disability not covered by special education (remember, while there are literally hundreds of different types of disabilities, special education law only covers thirteen specific types of disabilities).

  • When a parent approaches a teacher with concerns that his/her child may have a disability that requires special instructional accommodations or program modifications.


The 504 planning team shall then prepare a 504 Plan for an eligible disabled student. The 504 Plan provides the reasonable instructional accommodations and modifications to which the student is entitled, based on the student's individual needs. Once the Plan has been developed, the general education team (including specialists and related arts teachers) is responsible for implementing the Plan.


To be in compliance with section 504, the 504 planning team must review the Plan at least annually to determine the nature and type of accommodations and instructional modifications they shall provide, or to review for continued eligibility if necessary. If a child's individual learning needs change from the previous year, the 504 planning team will meet to review and adjust the Plan if necessary. Any team member, including the parent, may call a 504 Plan review at any time.


A reevaluation of each initial evaluation will normally be conducted every three (3) years or more frequently if conditions warrant.


The evaluation team shall recommend the termination of a student's 504 Plan if it determines on the basis of the review of all pertinent information that:

  • The student is no longer disabled; or

  • The student no longer requires any specialized services to meet the identified needs; or

  • The student no longer requires any special accommodations; or

  • The student can be appropriately educated in a general education


There are times when the school and the parent disagree about the development or implementation of a 504 Plan. The first place to resolve a disagreement is at the building level. The building principal serves as the 504 coordinator for her/his building. Any concerns shall be addressed with the principal first.

If the concern cannot be satisfactorily addressed at the building, the issue can then be brought to the District Coordinator of 504 Plans. The Administrator of Student Services serves as the District Coordinator of 504 Plans and can be reached at the Mikaelian Education Center 847.512.6000. The District 504 Coordinator will meet with the child’s 504 planning team, which includes the parent, and review the relevant information. At the meeting a determination will be made about the appropriateness of the Plan and the reasonableness of the accommodations. The 504 Plan may be revised at that meeting.

When appeal to the Administrator of Student Services does not resolve a conflict, the parent has the right to request a “due process hearing” by contacting the Superintendent. At this point the school identifies an impartial hearing officer who will hear the case. The impartial due-process hearing officer will review information provided by the school and the parent, and will also hear any witnesses provided. The due process hearing officer will make the final determination.