Special Needs and the Foreign Service Child

There are unique challenges inherent in raising a child with special needs, and this is especially true in the internationally mobile lifestyle of the Foreign Service. There has been a significant effort to increase the number of programs for children with special needs in American International schools around the world. However, the quality of these programs varies greatly from school to school, and even from year to year. While more children who have mild learning difficulties are adequately served in international schools, children with moderate to severe difficulties still encounter major challenges. In addition to the lack of available programs overseas, very often there is also a lack of other support or therapeutic specialists to serve the requirements of special needs children.

Parents are a child’s best advocate. The Foreign Service has procedures in place to help parents find the right resources and educational options for their child.

Contact the Regional Education Officers (REOs) in the Office of Overseas Schools (OS) with questions regarding educating special needs children overseas. The REOs are professional educators and always available to advise parents. OS also has a parent resource page that contains useful resources for educating special needs children abroad and a list of schools that offer support to children with special needs.

In the Medical Services Office, the Child and Family Program will assist Foreign Service families with Special Needs educational issues.

The Child and Family Program
SA-1 Columbia Plaza - Room H246
2401 E St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20520-2256
Tel: (202) 663-1815
FAX: (202) 663-1456/1454

The Child and Family Program works with parents to assure children's mental health and special educational needs are identified, appropriately assessed and have an effective treatment and educational plan established in advance of and during overseas assignments.

Team members assist families with arranging evaluations for problems including speech difficulties, motor coordination difficulties, learning difficulties, attention deficit difficulties, and emotional problems. Comprehensive evaluations can include psychological, educational, speech/language, occupational therapy and psychiatric assessments.

The Child and Family Program (CFP) is located within the Mental Health Services of the Office of Medical Services and is made up of a multidisciplinary team including child psychologists, social workers, and a child psychiatrist. For additional information, visit the Child and Family Program webpage .

In the Washington, DC Area

Find resources in the Washington, DC area by location:

Washington, D.C.



Quick Links to Additional Resources for Special Needs Concerns

Use the links below to go to the related content on this page:

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD and ADD)

AD/HD and the College Student


Blind and Visually Impaired

Return to Quick Links List

Cerebral Palsy

Classroom Accommodations

The following links offer sample plans for accommodations and modifications that can be done in the classroom to help students with learning disabilities. Note: Many accommodations are specified in a student's psycho-educational evaluation or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is not intended to replace those recommendations, nor are all recommendations appropriate for all children. This is only to suggest possible ways for teachers, parents, and students to form better partnerships by exploring those recommendations that might be appropriate.

College: Considerations and Resources

Cued Speech



Return to Quick Links List

Early Intervention and Young Children

Family Support

  • All Kinds of Minds - A non-profit institute for the understanding of differences in learning. The Institute was founded by Dr. Mel Levine, a nationally recognized expert in the field of learning differences. The site has information for families, educators, and clinicians.
  • Services in School for Children with Special Needs: What Parents Need to Know - Provides an example of an AACAP article with a clear and concise summary for parents. It discusses identifying and qualifying children with special needs for special education and briefly covers the related legal issues in public schools.
  • Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation - A non-profit organization that includes information on identification issues and programs for LD, AD/HD and those who struggle with learning.
  • Family Education - Strategies and skills-building techniques, information on AD and AD/HD including a parent discussion forum.

Hearing Issues

Homeschooling a Special Needs Child

Return to Quick Links List

Learning Disabilities

  • National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities - NICHCY's Web site provides information about specific disabilities, special education and related services for children in school, individualized education programs, parent materials, disability organizations, professional associations, education rights and what the law requires, early intervention services for infants and toddlers, and transition to adult life.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America - The association's goal is to advance education and general welfare of children and adults with learning disabilities.
  • Learning Disabilities On-line - Information for parents and other professionals, including topics such as Choosing a Tutor:
  • The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) - Offers a variety of information and further links on the full range of learning disabilities. The website provides registration to an LD News Link for updates and includes information on advocacy, fact sheets on various aspects and types of learning disabilities, common concerns, a screening test for reading readiness, and interactive reading games
  • Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities - Helping parents help their children succeed; this organization also offers the Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Youth Achievement Award, honoring the accomplishments of a young person with learning disabilities or ADHD.

Legal Rights

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Parent Advocacy

Parent Resources


  • GreatSchools.org - Parent information on the first steps in addressing the needs of a learning difficulty, how to work with the school, managing needs.

Reading Readiness

Twice Exceptional Students

More about children that exhibit characteristics of being gifted and talented with learning disabilities:

Written Resources (not available for reading on line)

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. - The professional manual that lists criteria for specific diagnoses, such as, AD/HD, various LDs, autism, and mental retardation. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, May 2013.
  • The Guide to Private Special Education lists and describes educational programs for elementary and secondary students with special needs. Guide listings include such information as student eligibility, admission requirements, therapeutic offerings, tuition and aid, and curricular details.

Washington Area Programs by Location

All Washington area public school systems have special education programs for mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged children. Some still contract out some of their special education cases, but many have moved to academic integration, sometimes called inclusion, of the student into regular classes. For information on programs in the following districts, contact the appropriate office.

Return to Quick Links List

District of Columbia Public Schools

Office of Special Education
825 N. Capitol St., NE, 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-4800
Fax: (202) 442-5517/5518


Anne Arundel County

Division of Special Education
Anne Arundel County Public Schools
2644 Riva Road
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: (410) 222-5000

Howard County

Department of Special Education
Howard County Public Schools
10910 Route 108
Ellicott City, MD
Phone: (410) 313-6742

Montgomery County

Department of Special Education
Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive
Rockville , MD 20850
Phone: (301) 279-3125

Prince George 's County

Department of Special Education
Prince George’s County Public Schools14201 School Lane
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Phone: (301) 817-3142

Return to Quick Links List



Director of Student Services
Alexandria City Public Schools
2000 North Beauregard
Alexandria , Virginia 22311
Phone: (703) 824-6650
Fax: (703) 931-0187


Office of Special Education
Arlington Public Schools
1426 North Quincy Street
Arlington, VA 22207
Phone: (703) 228-6040
Fax: 703-228-6298

Fairfax County

Office of Special Education
Fairfax County Public Schools
8115 Gatehouse Rd.
Falls Church, VA 22030
Phone: (571) 423-4100
Fax: (571) 423-4137

Falls Church

Office of Special Education and Student Services
Falls Church City Public Schools
803 West Broad Street
Suite 302
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 248-5630

Loudoun County

Office of Special Education
21000 Education Court
Ashburn Virginia 20148
Phone: (571) 252-1011

Prince William County

Office of Special Education
Prince William County Public Schools
P. O. Box 389
Manassas, VA 22110

Stafford County

Parent Resource Center
Stafford County Public Schools
1729 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford, VA 22554
Phone: (703) 720-3336

Return to Quick Links List

Information provided by the Family Liaison Office

Contact the Family Liaison Office