Updated: Aug 14, 2019
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, reports that the special education population is on the rise. During the 2015-16 school year, 6.7 million kids in America were receiving some form of special education services. That number is 100,000 more than the year before and represents 13.2% of America’s total student population.
Navigating through the special education process can be quite unnerving for those who do not know or understand the laws governing special education. The special education process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers 13 conditions and is intended to ensure that every individual child's needs are thoughtfully measured and addressed.
The 13 conditions are:
Specific Learning Disability - there is a wide range of conditions that fall under SLD. These are conditions that can affect a child's ability to reason, read, write, speak, do math or listen, which can include such diagnosis as: dyslexia, auditory processing, nonverbal and dysgraphia.
Emotional Disturbance - includes mental disorders such as bipolar, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc.
Autism Spectrum Disorders - involves a range of developmental disabilities affecting a child's communication and social skills.
Speech and/or Language Impairments - this covers language impairments like stuttering.
Visual Impairments - includes partial and total blindness; however, if correctable with glasses the child does not qualify for services.
Deafness - when a child cannot process language through hearing.
Hearing Impairment - any hearing loss not covered under the definition of deafness.
Deaf-blindness - these are children with combined visual and hearing issues. They are classified separately because neither visual nor deaf services alone accommodate them.
Orthopedic Impairment - ANY impairment to a child's body.
Intellectual Disabilities - having below average or limited intellectual ability. Down syndrome classifies as an intellectual disability.
Traumatic Brain Injury - includes any injury to the brain.
Other Health Impairments - this includes any condition that limits energy, strength or alertness, like Attention Deficit Disorder.
Multiple Disabilities - having more than one of the disabilities outlined by IDEA.
Parents may recognize an issue with a child early on and seek answers; but in many cases some of these conditions may not be noticed until a child enters school at which time a teacher may request an evaluation for a child to be evaluated for special education. Parents consent is mandatory for a child to be evaluated.
How Do I Request My Child Be Evaluated and Then What?
As a parent you have the right to request that your child be evaluated for special education. This request can be done verbally but it is always best to be formal and put in writing. Public school districts are required by law to acknowledge all request to assess and evaluate any child for special education services.
Best practices would be to consult your child’s teachers first and get their professional opinion regarding your concerns. If they agree with you then request in writing to your school (public or private) that your child be evaluated. If your child attends public school, they will make arrangements for assessment which is usually done on-site. If your child attends a private school, once you request an evaluation, they will contact the district and arrangements should be made. The district may perform the evaluation or send you to a third party.
Please be advised that the school district can deny your request to evaluate your child for special education services for lack of adequate reasoning or evidence of your claims. Therefore, it is important for you talk to your child’s teacher and try to solicit their help in the process. If the district denies your request, they must respond to you in writing why they are denying you.
Once you make a request, they have about 60 days to respond. If they agree to evaluate your child, they should evaluate them in all areas that relate to the disability. If for any reason you disagree with the findings/results you can seek an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and request the district to pay for it. If your child is deemed eligible then a team of professionals have 30 days to meet and write an Individual Education Plan (IEP). In part 2, we will cover understanding the IEP.
This article was written by Dr. James Gray as a public service announcement. Dr. James Gray is the School Services Director at Limai Academy and has been in education for over 15 years.