Special Education Basics: The Evaluation
The procedure for having your child evaluated for special education services is relatively simple, but not always understood by parents. Here are the basics:
If you suspect that your child needs special education services, request an evaluation from the school district. A simple letter to the school or Committee on Special Education in New York is fine. The school district also has a duty to identify and evaluate students that may need special education services (known as the child find obligation – a topic for another blog post), and thus the request to evaluate may also come from the school. Once an evaluation is requested, the school district will then request consent from the parent. After consent is obtained, the school district has 60 days to evaluate the child for special education services. The evaluation must cover all areas of suspected need (i.e. physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language, etc.). If you believe that your child should be evaluated in a particular area, your request to evaluate should specify that area.
The IDEA requires the school district to evaluate a child with a disability every three years (the triennial evaluation). As a parent, you may waive this requirement in writing. You, however, do not need to wait that long for an evaluation. The IDEA allows you to request a reevaluation of the child up to once a year. This may be necessary if your child is not making progress in his/her/their current program.
Independent Educational Evaluation
If you disagree with the school district’s evaluation or believe it is not comprehensive, the parent may obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at the school district’s expense. Again, this applies to all areas of potential need such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy. You may want an IEE because school evaluations typically do not include a specific diagnosis or make specific recommendations. The request should be made to the school or CSE. Once you request an evaluation at the district’s request, the school district has two options: (1) fund the evaluation; or (2) challenge the parent’s disagreement with the school district’s evaluation by filing a due process hearing request. The school district must respond to the IEE request “without unnecessary delay.”
The Law Office of Justin Shane advises parents through the evaluation process and helps parents obtain IEEs.