6 Steps to Successful Special Education Eligibility For Your Child!

Are you concerned that your child may have Asperger’s Syndrome or be on the Autism Spectrum even though special education personnel in your school district say that they don’t? Is your child struggling academically even though school personnel say everything is fine? This article is for you! I will be discussing the 6 steps to special education eligibility, and how you can prepare for each step to increase your chances that your child will be found eligible!

The federal law that covers special education is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 or IDEA 2004; which all states must comply with.

Step 1 is the Request for Evaluation. According to IDEA 2004 school districts must find, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, under the Child Find section. You may submit a written request that your child receive a comprehensive psychological evaluation, to determine if they have a disability.

You should include any information that supports your case that your child has a disability. Outside evaluations, medical reports, district and state wide standardized testing, teacher comments etc. Also in your request, mention all areas that you think your child may have a disability in because schools must test in all areas of suspected disability.

Step 2 is the decision by the school district whether they are going to test your child; which is usually done at a meeting between parents and school personnel. You must stand up for your child at this meeting, and absolutely insist that your child be tested in all areas of suspected disability.

Step 3 is the consent to evaluate. If the school agrees to evaluate your child you must sign a consent form for this testing. IDEA 2004 requires that parents give informed consent. What does this mean? This means that you understand what tests are going to be given and in what areas. You may withhold consent to test in one area, or to give a specific test if you do not agree.

Ask that all evaluation reports be sent to you by mail at least 10 days prior to the eligibility meeting; so that you can be a full participant in the process.

Step 4 is the actual evaluation. The school has 60 days in which to complete the evaluation. Most evaluations have interviews with one or both parents especially if a Vineland or an Autism Rating Scale is being given. Rating Scales should be filled out by parents because they know the child best; and this will increase the reliability of the Scale.

Step 5 is the Eligibility Conference and the Individual Educational Plan Meeting. If at all possible bring another parent or an advocate who is familiar with special education.

Ask lots of questions especially about terminology that you do not understand. Ask evaluators to fully explain their report, and especially any scores that are below grade level. If scores are below grade level evaluators should be able to tell you why? For example: A third grade student that reads at a first grade level may have undiagnosed learning disabilities. Any area that is below grade level means that a child may need related and or special education services in this area, in order to benefit from their education.

If the child is found eligible then an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) must be developed for the child. All services needed should be included on the IEP, as well as minutes per week that the child will receive the service.

Step 6 is Consent for special education Placement. IDEA 2004 requires that parents sign for initial related and special education services. Special education is not necessarily a special class, but can be services that your child needs for their education. Related services are things such as therapies, assistive technology, counseling, etc.

While eligibility is not guaranteed, advocating for your child you will increase your chance of having your child found eligible for special education services!

Supplemental Educational Supports

Sometimes we find as educators, parents, and students that the established educational institutions and services that are in place do not always meet the needs of every child. Sometimes it takes “outside the box approaches” in order to bring necessary concepts/curriculum to individual learners. Some examples of highly effective supplemental/alternative education possibilities include:

1. Private Tutoring
2. Home Schooling
3. Educational Advocacy

PRIVATE TUTORING

Private in home tutoring is an excellent way to provide a child with the one-on-one individualized instruction that they may be needing. With growing class sizes nationwide and less individual attention available for each student many parents are looking to supplement their child’s education with a private in home tutor. There are many benefits to having a private tutor come to your house such as; convenient scheduling, customized instruction, increased confidence, and of course increased retention of curricular materials which will result in better grades. The results have proven time and time again that this form of supplemental education is well worth the money spent and it doesn’t cost as much as you might think.

HOME SCHOOLING

Given the reasons mentioned already about the changes taking place in our classes nationwide another popular and highly effective trend in alternative education is home schooling. Home schooling offers parents the unique opportunity to keep an extremely close watch on their child’s educational environment while in the comfort of their own home. There are many resources available to parents who want to home school their child, but may not have the time or resources to do so. Parents can hire private tutors / teachers to deliver curriculum that they aren’t comfortable with in order to enhance the home schooling experience. They can also have curriculum built for them that is tailor made to their child’s educational needs and the learning preferences of the family.

EDUCATIONAL ADVOCACY

When problems arise in your child’s education and you feel that the proper educational services are not being delivered you may want to seek guidance from an educational advocate. An advocate is an expert in the educational process and is able to communicate with your child’s school to ensure that your child is receiving proper educational services. If issues arise in your child’s schooling an advocate has a tremendous amount of knowledge in regards to the educational process and can easily navigate the system to ensure that all the proper services are being used to ensure their academic success.