Issue Background

Special Education and Mental Health

For more information on Special Education and Mental Health, please visit the following resources:

The Special Education Toolkit: This toolkit, developed by National PTA, includes information on federal special needs policy, how to get started if your child has special needs, and vocabulary to become familiar with.

Caring for Every Child's Mental Health: A webinar developed jointly by National PTA and the National Association of School Psychology. The webinar discusses how to recognize if your child has special needs; what resources are available to families; and how to navigate the special education system.

Public Policy Agenda Special Education webinar: Discusses PTA's position and recommendation on Special Education policy as outlined in the Public Policy Agenda.


IDEA is the main federal program authorizing state and local aid for special education and related services for children with special needs. IDEA requires states to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to children with special needs so that they can be educated to the greatest extent possible, along with all other children.

Through the years, PTA has worked to improve IDEA. PTA will continue to work with Congress to increase coordination in the implementation of ESEA-NCLB and IDEA, ensuring that all students graduate college- and career-ready, that family engagement remains a fundamental principle of IDEA, and that the rights of children with special needs and their parents are fully protected.

Recent tragedies across the nation have highlighted the need – more than ever – for improved access to mental health services.  Despite research showing the importance of school-based mental health services, nearly 70 percent of adolescents living with mental illness do not receive treatment. The American School Counselor Association recommends one school counselor for every 250 students, yet the national average during the 2010-2011 school year was one counselor for every 471 students. PTA believes that all students deserve access to appropriate mental health services in school.