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A Parent’s Perspective—LD Evaluation in the Public Schools

Testing for Learning Disabilities - Children with Learning Disabilities icon_podcastsThe following is a transcription of the podcast, “A Parent’s Perspective—LD Evaluation in the Public Schools (audio).”

The topic of this NCLD podcast is the process of evaluation for learning disabilities (LD) done by the public school. This transcript captures Candace Cortiella’s interview with Judith Halden, a videographer and mother of a young adult with learning disabilities.

Judith, please tell us what a parent should know about the LD evaluation process overall.
The first and most important thing for parents to keep in mind is that there really is no right or wrong way to go about the evaluation process. The key is not waiting. If a parent is concerned about the academic progress their child is making, they should absolutely begin taking steps that will help them uncover the cause and allow for interventions to begin.

Sometimes parents are advised to wait and see. I myself was advised that many years ago. The feeling is that children can catch on later. Some kids just developmentally do catch on later, but research has shown that’s rarely the case. And even if it is, investigating the learning difficulties early on can’t have any negative effects. Instead, it really provides a measure of relief for parents instead of wondering what could be causing the problems.

Do public schools have an obligation to evaluate students for possible learning disabilities?
Yes, actually they do. It’s part of the public school obligation under the federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA has a provision called Child Find which obligates school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children who are suspected of having disabilities.

So does this mean that schools must do an evaluation if a parent makes a request for one?
No, it doesn’t and that’s an important distinction to make. Parents have the right to make a request, and if they do, they should make it in writing. But schools can and do respond in different ways. For example, a school might want to attempt a series of academic interventions to improve the student’s performance before they proceed with an evaluation. There may be special classes or different kinds of tutoring that they can offer. In that case, parents should expect to be given detailed information on the intervention process and exactly how their child’s progress will be communicated and how it will be measured. Sometimes this approach may fall under what’s called Response to Intervention, or RTI.

The school might also simply take the position that it doesn’t see any reason for an evaluation. In other words, they don’t acknowledge the learning issues. If that’s the case, the school should provide the parent with a written explanation of why they are refusing the request for evaluation.

It’s important to keep all of these pieces, all the [documentation] of what the parent submits to the school and what they get in return. That way, as things progress, if it’s necessary, you have a paper trail of the information that’s already been put forward.