Many parents find themselves filled with mixed emotions once their child has been referred for a special education evaluation. There is fear that their child may have a disability, relief that the child’s difficulties may be due to a disability, hope that answers are going to be found to solve the problem, and often just a lot of anxiety. One thing that should not be present is confusion about the process, but it is very common.
Many parents do not fully understand what happens after the referral; they may get intimidated, or have different expectations. It is important to note that schools systems will vary to some degree.
If you have any questions about the process in your school system, ask your school psychologist, teacher, or principal. Parents have every right to ask questions and usually school personnel are happy to help make this process less anxiety-provoking for you.
After data shows that interventions have been attempted and if a student is suspected of having a disability, a referral is made to evaluate him or her for special education testing. Once the parents sign the Permission for Testing Forms, timelines begin and the schools have 60 calendar days to complete the assessments. Some states may have a different timeline.
During these 60 days, several testing components will be completed with you and your child. The evaluator(s) will write reports and a copy will be given to parents before the eligibility meeting. It is advised, that parents take advantage of this and read reports before the meeting to help get familiar with the information and to formulate questions. The reports hold a lot of information that can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with this type of testing. Additionally, the meeting is likely to bring forth strong emotions as your child’s difficulties are discussed openly. It can be overwhelming for parents, especially when not prepared. When parents do not read the reports prior to the eligibility meeting, they are the only people at the table who come to the meeting not knowing what to expect.
Once a child is eligible for special education services, the school has 30 days to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) for the student. This will consist of accommodations, goals, and describe the services offered. Parents are part of a committee to help create this document. Once it is signed, schools are legally required to follow it. It is reviewed once a year, unless parents or teachers feel that changes are necessary.
If your child was found ineligible for special education services and you agree with the eligibility findings, then your child will not receive special education. He or she was evaluated because of a problem that still needs to be addressed within regular education.