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Taking the First Step toward Special Education
Who is this for?This chapter is for parents who are considering asking for a formal evaluation of their child (testing to determine if the child has a disability) or who have received a request from the school to have their child evaluated.
Why is this important?In order for a child to receive special education services, he or she must first be evaluated. A referral from the school or a request for formal evaluation from a parent sets into motion a host of legal obligations and procedures required by IDEA. It is important for parents to understand their rights and options during this process.
What can parents do?An important first step is learning how to organize concerns by keeping detailed records and then sharing relevant information during formal communication with the school. Parents can also learn more about the common signs of learning disabilities.
Child findOngoing activities undertaken by states and local school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children residing in the state who are suspected of having disabilities so that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) can be made available to all eligible children, including all children in public and private schools, including religious schools.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)Special education and related services that are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge to the parent, and that meet the standards of the state education department. Special education and related services must be provided in conformity with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as required by IDEA.
Informed consentProcedure to ensure that the parent:
- Has been fully informed of all information related to the proposed activity (in his native language, or other mode of communication)
- Understands and agrees in writing to carrying out the activity for which his consent is sought
- Understands that giving consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time
- Understands that revoking consent will not apply to an activity that has already occurred
Informed consent is required for an evaluation, a re-evaluation and for the initial delivery of special education services.
In Chapter 1: Pre-referral Services you learned about a variety of possibilities to help address your child's learning problems before a referral is made for special education evaluation. Chapter 2: Response-to-Intervention introduced a process intended to improve both pre-referral services and determining individual student needs. This chapter describes the process of formally referring students for special education evaluation.
The first step in the special education process is the referral (or request) for an evaluation of a student.
[New] IDEA 2004 clearly establishes that either a child's parent or school district can initiate a request for an evaluation to determine if a student is a child with a disability and needs special education.
Making a request for a formal evaluation does not give the school district your permission to begin special education services. If the results of the evaluation indicate that your child needs special education, you and your school will develop an educational plan tailored to your child's specific needs. At that point, you must provide consent for any special education services to begin.
A referral for evaluation sets into motion a host of legal obligations and procedures that are complex — even daunting — for parents. Understanding special education procedures will enable you to act in the best interest of your child during each phase of the process.
No matter who requests the evaluation, it is conducted at no cost to the parents, and parents are an essential part of the process.
Private Evaluations at Private ExpenseParents can and often do choose to have their child evaluated privately, as opposed to asking the school to do an evaluation. If you choose to obtain a private evaluation, the school is not responsible for the cost of the evaluation. You can decide whether or not to share the results of a private evaluation with your child's school.