Something doesn’t seem quite right with your child and school. Last year, she was doing okay, and this year nothing seems to be clicking. Or maybe this is just the breaking point in a slow and steady decline in ability compared to age. Perhaps the teacher has even mentioned that your child seems to be behind in academic or social ability.
Obviously, you would like something to be done.
Here’s the secret part
You can work around the lengthy process of a typical IEP. You, the parent, has the right to formally request that your child be tested for a disability.
However, most schools will NEVER tell you this. Legally, they are required to follow the specific process outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004. Essentially, and I’ll explain this in another post, IDEA says that schools need to follow a series of steps:
- identify the problem
- use a vetted intervention in the general education setting, track progress for changes
- bring data to a school-based team for evaluation
- repeat steps 2 and 3 until the team is satisfied that this is beyond the gen. ed. teacher
- this could go on for weeks or months or the whole school year
- request parental consent for evaluation
- complete and analyze evaluation
- have meting to discuss findings of evaluation
- draft an IEP
But you don’t have to do this, you can request a formal education evaluation from your school.
What you need to do
First, you need to submit a letter of request. Education Law Advocates has an outstanding example to base your letter on. Be sure to send it via registered mail. You will need to send it to your building principal and the director of special education. Once they receive it, they have up to 60 days to complete the evaluation. These assessments should be paid for and provided by the school district.
However, they also have 60 days to refuse your request for evaluation. If they should refuse, the school needs to provide you with a written letter of refusal that specifies exactly why they do not think your child is a candidate for special education evaluation.
Should they refuse assessment, you have some options. First, you can ask for a copy of the special education parental rights and district procedures for special education and evaluations. These should outline the process to contest the district’s decision to refuse testing. Second, you can obtain the testing on your own. This would mean that you pay for the testing. The tests that you and your pediatrician select will hopefully accurately reflect what you suspect. From here, you can take these findings to the school and move forward together.
If your assessments do not confirm what you thought, and your child is still having difficulty, your best best is to contact your teacher for assistance. Ask for a conference, face to face. Outline your concerns, and see what the teacher thinks is best. The teacher can also initiate the special education referral process by returning to the standard procedure outlined above.
The bottom line: If your child is struggling, and you think that expediting the special education process would be better, formally request a special education evaluation. The worst they can say is no. And even then, you still have options.