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Documentation of a Disability

Two young girls read a book together. One girl is in a wheelchair and the other shares the seat while they look at the book.



ESA+ is a program for students with disabilities who require special education services. As part of the application process, you will be asked to verify that the student has a disability.

New Applicants

First-time applicants must submit a current Eligibility Determination from the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), issued by a North Carolina public school.

What does the Eligibility Determination from the ECATS system look like? 

Statewide Eligibility Determination forms display an ECATS logo in the top left corner and Eligibility Determination as the title on the top right. The form concludes with the IEP team names. The forms must be issued by a North Carolina public school (which may include a Department of Defense school in North Carolina), dated within the last three years from the date of submission of a new application.

A screenshot of the Eligibility Determination form. The ECATS logo appears in the upper left corner and the words "eligibility determination" in the upper right corner.


See the table below for examples of when the Eligibility Determination must be dated for a particular academic year.

Award for Academic Year

Meeting Date must be:


1/1/19 or later


1/1/20 or later


Renewing Families

To remain eligible to participate in the ESA+ program, families must provide a re-evaluation of their student’s disability every three years.

One woman looks on while another woman types on a laptop computer

The three-year cycle begins with the date of the most recent IEP Eligibility Determination that is on file with SEAA. Families should start re-evaluation no later than early fall to allow enough time to complete this process. Families will receive email reminders, also visible in their MyPortal account, when it is time to complete re-evaluation.


ESA+ Award for Academic Year

Date of IEP Eligibility Determination

Begin Reevaluation Process

Re-evaluation Due to ESA+


1/1/19 or later

Fall 2022



1/1/20 or later

Fall 2023



Options for renewing students

If the primary or secondary disability listed on the student’s Eligibility Determination has not changed, renewing families may submit one of the following to SEAA.


  1. Public School Eligibility Determination: The local public school system assesses the student to determine if the student continues to be a child with a disability. The document to submit to ESA+ is the Eligibility Determination issued by the IEP team.


  1. Psychologist Assessment: A North Carolina Licensed Psychologist with a school psychology focus or a North Carolina Licensed Psychiatrist assesses the student to evaluate if the student has improved his or her educational performance and would continue to benefit from the Eligible School or Home School. The document to submit to ESA+ is the Continuing Eligibility Form.
    • The cost of a psychiatrist or psychologist is an acceptable use of ESA+ funds if the provider is approved and registered with ESA+. In the course of providing a therapeutic service, the approved provider can complete the Continuing Eligibility Form.

Note: The Continuing Eligibility form cannot be used to document a change in the area of disability.


What should I do if my child’s area of disability has changed?

Contact your local public school and request a re-evaluation. A full IEP is not required for this process; only the Eligibility Determination document.


What if I need help finding the right documents?

Please contact the ESA+ program at or North Carolina’s Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (information follows below).


Need Help?

The Exceptional Children's Assistance Center (ECAC) logo

If you have questions about initiating the special education process, timelines, evaluations, reevaluations, and/or eligibility, please contact the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC) at 1-800-962-6817 or ECAC provides NC families with tools, resources and information to help them make informed decisions and become their child’s best and most effective advocate. ALL of ECAC’s services to families are provided at no cost.


Please note that ECAC is a wholly separate entity from the State Education Assistance Authority (the “Authority”).  ECAC is not affiliated with the Authority and the Authority is not responsible for any representations or information provided to the public by ECAC.