From Emotions to Advocacy
The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam & Pete Wright
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FAQs About Your Childs Evaluation
A: The first step is to find out if your child has a disability. To do this, ask the school to evaluate your child. Write a letter to the principal or Superintendant and ask that your child be evaluated for special education. In your letter, give some information about your child's educational problems. (To learn how to write letters, see Chapter 23, Writing Good Letters, Appendix I of Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.)
The school may think your child needs special education help because he or she may have a disability. If so, then the school must evaluate your child at no cost to you.
However, the school does not have to evaluate your child just because you asked. The school may not think your child has a disability or needs special education. In this case, the school may refuse to evaluate your child. If they refuse, they must let you know their decision in writing, and why they refused to evaluate.
If the school refuses to evaluate your child, there are some steps you can take immediately:
Your PTI is an excellent resource to help you learn more about special education, your rights and responsibilities, and the law. Your PTI can tell you what steps to take next to find help for your child. To locate a PTI in your state, check our Directory of Parent Training Information Centers. Your PTI will be listed there.
Services to Very Young Children
Infants and toddlers have disabilities, too. Services to very young children are also part of the IDEA. These services are called early intervention services (for children birth through two years) and preschool services (for children ages 3-5). Early intervention services are very important in helping young children develop and learn.
Q: What happens during an evaluation?
your child means more than the school just giving your child a test
or two. The school must evaluate your child in all the areas where your
child may be affected by the possible disability. This may include looking
at your child's health, vision, hearing, social and emotional well-being,
general intelligence, performance in school, and how well your child
communicates with others and uses his or her body.
Evaluating your child appropriately will give you and the school a lot of information about your child. This information will help you and the school:
The evaluation process involves several steps. These are listed below.
existing information. A group of people, including you, begins by
looking at the information the school already has about your child.
You may have information about your child you wish to share as well.
The group will look at information such as:
Deciding if more information is still needed. The information collected above will help the group decide:
Group members will look at the information they collected above and see if they have enough information to make these decisions. If the group needs more information to make these decisions, the school must collect it.
Collecting more information about your child. If more information about your child is needed, the school will give your child tests or collect the information in other ways. Your informed written permission is required before the school may collect this information. The evaluation group will then have the information it needs to make the types of decisions listed above.
Q: So the school needs my permission to collect this extra information?
A: Yes. Before the school can conduct additional assessments of your child to see if he or she has a disability, the school must ask for your informed written permission. It must also describe how it will conduct this evaluation. This includes describing the tests that will be used and the other ways the school will collect information about your child. After you give your informed written permission, the school may evaluate your child.
Q: How does the school collect this information?
A: The school collects information about your child from many different people and in many different ways. Tests are an important part of an evaluation, but they are only a part. The evaluation should also include:
The following people will be part of the group evaluating your child:
qualified professionals may be responsible for collecting specific kinds
of information about your child. They may include:
will observe your child. They may give your child written tests or talk
personally with your child. They are trying to get a picture of the
"whole child." For example, they want to understand:
The IDEA gives clear directions about how schools must conduct evaluations. For example, tests and interviews must be given in your child's native language (for example, Spanish) or in the way he or she typically communicates (for example, sign language). The tests must also be given in a way that does not discriminate against your child, because he or she has a disability or is from a different racial or cultural background.
The IDEA states that schools may not place children into special education programs based on the results of only one procedure such as a test. More than one procedure is needed to see where your child may be having difficulty and to identify his or her strengths.
In some cases, schools will be able to conduct a child's entire evaluation within the school. In other cases, schools may not have the staff to do all of the evaluation needed. These schools will have to hire outside people or agencies to do some or all of the evaluation. If your child is evaluated outside of the school, the school must make the arrangements. The school will say in writing exactly what type of testing is to be done. All of these evaluation procedures are done at no cost to parents.
In some cases, once the evaluation has begun, the outside specialist may want to do more testing. If the specialist asks you if it is okay to do more testing, make sure you tell the specialist to contact the school. If the testing is going beyond what the school originally asked for, the school needs to agree to pay for the extra testing.
More FAQ Sheets on FetaWeb.com
about Special Education (What Is it? Who is Eligible?)
Parents need to learn about evaluations. This subject is covered in Chapter 8. You learn about test scores and how to measure your child's progress in Chapters 10 and 11.
You should also read Chapter 17, IDEA - Section 1414: Evaluations, Eligibility, IEPs, and Placement.
NOTE: This article is an excerpt from "Questions Often Asked by Parents about Special Education Services", NICHCY Briefing Paper LG1 (4th Edition), September 1999.
NICHCY Briefing Papers are developed in response to questions and concerns of individuals and organizations that contact the Clearinghouse. NICHCY disseminates other materials and can respond to individual requests for information.
This document was reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs for consistency with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, Public Law 105-17, and the final implementing regulations published March 12, 1999.
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