When a parent is concerned that their child may have a disability and is not making expected progress in development or in school, the parent can request that an evaluation be done by specialists in special education. The evaluation involves special testing, observations, and parent and school staff reports. A child must meet certain requirements when tested to be able to receive special education services.
Special education uses special instructional methods and, when needed, special services from a speech clinician, special education teacher, and other specialists to meet the individual needs of a child with a disability.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities. Schools must evaluate students suspected of having a disability. IDEA has been amended several times since Congress first passed it in 1975 and covers children from infancy until they are 21 years of age, at no cost to the parents. The goals of IDEA 2004 are to:
Ensure that schools provide special education services in the child’s Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
Ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected
Ensure educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results
Assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities
Not every child who appears to struggle in school will receive special education services under IDEA. IDEA lists 14 different disability categories under which 3 - 21 year-olds may be eligible for special education and related services. The disability categories listed in IDEA are:
Developmental Delay (DD)
Other Health Impairment (OHI)
Orthopedic Impaired (OI)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Visually Impaired (VI)
The request for an evaluation can be made by the parent, the school, or other individual(s) who are involved in the education or care of the student. The evaluation not only determines if a student has an educational disability, but also shows what services and supports that the child might need. In order to start an evaluation, the school must conduct a Review of Existing Data (RED). There must be a determination of whether or not additional data will be needed in order to determine:
Whether the student has a particular category of disability;
The present levels of performance and educational needs of the student; and
Whether the student needs special education and/or related services.
Parental consent must be obtained prior to conducting an initial evaluation. The Parent Consent Form outlines the assessment tools that will be used in the evaluation, such as an intellectual assessment, observations, parent interviews, academic testing, motor assessments, and anything else that appears to be a need that will be completed within the evaluation. The district must receive the parent’s written consent before proceeding with the evaluation. Once written consent has been provided, the evaluation team has 45 school days to complete the initial evaluation for school age students.
What will happen with the results of the evaluation?
Once the evaluation pieces are complete, a Multidisciplinary Evaluation and Eligibility Group Summary (MEEGS) is written by the team. A copy of the evaluation report is provided to the parents by the 45 day due date.
If the evaluation results show, and the team determines, that the child does indeed have a disability and has special education needs, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is created and will be based off of the evaluation. A comprehensive evaluation is completed every 3 years.
If the evaluation results show, and the team determines, that the child is “not eligible” to receive special education services under IDEA, the school system must tell the parent(s) in writing and explain why your child has been found “not eligible,” as well as provide you with information about what you can do if you disagree with the decision. Being that your child was evaluated and continues to show concerns, meeting with the teacher and other school personnel can help to determine what can be done within the regular education classroom to address the concerns further. This could include involvement in remedial programs, tutoring, etc.
An IEP is an “Individualized Education Program” that is written every year for a child with a disability. It is written by a team that includes the parent, special education professionals and an administrator. The IEP describes a child’s strengths and current skills, what skills will be worked on during the school year, the services that the child will receive, and other help such as transportation, adjustments in the classroom, etc. that will be provided to the child. As part of the IEP team, it is important as a parent to discuss your child’s strengths and abilities as well as share your concerns regarding your child.
According to the law, an IEP must include the following statements regarding your child:
His or her present level of educational performance, which could include information concerning: academic achievement, social adaptation, prevocational and vocational skills, sensory and motor skills, daily living skills, speech and language skills
Consideration of special factors
A statement of the concerns for the parent(s)/guardian(s)
Specific special education and related services to be provided, who will be providing them, and how often they will be provided
Dates for when the services will begin and how long they will continue
Percentage of the school day in which your child will participate in regular education and special education programs—least restrictive environment (LRE)
Measurable annual goals (short-term instructional and measurable objectives are required for students working toward alternate achievement of the standards)
A description of progress toward goals
Transition plan, when applicable (used in grades 9 and above or upon turning 16)
State assessment information
Extended School Year Services determination
Consent for initial placement in special education
It is the law that a child with a disability be educated with children without disabilities as much as appropriate. The child with a disability must receive special education services so that the child will make progress on IEP goals and objectives. This can require that the student be removed from the general education classroom as appropriate.