Four Important Steps to Take Before a Formal Evaluation
If you suspect that your child has a learning disability (LD) there are steps you can take to help your child succeed in school. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives parents the right to request a formal evaluation from their child’s school district at no cost. But before taking this crucial step, there are a few things parents should do.
- Talk to your child's teacher about your concerns. This is a very important first step! You may want to share NCLD’s LD Checklist and have a conversation about the teacher’s observations of your child in the classroom. Open communication with educators is key in helping your child succeed. Together, you can develop ways to support your child at school and at home.
- Find out about pre-referral services offered by your child’s school. Before formally evaluating a child for special education, many schools have established processes for providing additional support and interventions for struggling students. Response to Invervention (RTI) is one research-based method of providing interventions for students as soon as they show signs of difficulty. Other schools may convene a “child study team” of professionals who recommend specific educational practices to get a student on track. Find out what your school can do or is doing for your child.
- Keep careful records on your child’s learning. Keep your own notes on your child’s development and meetings with school personnel. Make sure to add to your file all communication about your child from the school: test scores, report cards, and written comments from teachers. Round out your records with examples of your child’s school work. Having an organized record will help you monitor your child’s progress and will be crucial in the evaluation process.
- Know your rights. Federal law (IDEA) allows you, as a parent, to request a free formal evaluation for your child. Once you decide to make a formal request for evaluation, IDEA sets into motion a set of legal requirements and procedures for the school district. Knowing what to expect from the school is crucial in advocating for your child.