Qualifying a child for special education services is a process. As much as we would like it to be quick, the fact of the matter is, it is not. Let's work through the process here today.
Your child's team completed an initial evaluation for special education services either due to a referral from the school or because you requested the evaluation. Once parental consent was obtained, the school had 60 calendar days to complete the evaluation. Once completed, the IEP team will set up a time to convene to go over the results of the evaluation, determine eligibility, and if a child qualifies, develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The eligibility meeting and development of the IEP may occur at the same meeting or may be broken up into two meetings. As this can be a lengthy, and sometimes overwhelming process, I am in favor of breaking it up into two meetings.
To qualify for special education services, a child must be found to have a disabling condition that falls under the 13 categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the disability has to have an adverse effect on his or her education. Adverse effect is not clearly defined in the IDEA, which can be troublesome in eligibility meetings, but utilizing the results from the evaluation, as well as data from the classroom teacher(s), a team should be able to come to a consensus on whether or not the child's disability is impeding their education.
Please note, the U.S. Department of Education is very clear that education includes more than academics. They have issued statements in letters pertaining to ADHD and behavior. If a child struggles behaviorally, socially, or with attention, this impacts their education, too.
Ideally we hope the process is smooth, but as many of you know, this is not always the case. What happens, then, if you disagree with the results of the evaluation? You can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).
What needs to be included in a letter requesting an IEE? The basics, such as the date, your name, address, phone number, primary person your letter is directed to (for us it was the superintendent), and their address. Within the body of the letter be sure to include when your child was evaluated, the statement, "We are requesting an independent educational evaluation at public expense," as well as the reason(s) why. By law you do not have to explain why you disagree with their evaluation, but I personally find it beneficial to have the reasons documented. Additionally, be sure to specifically request the agency criteria for obtaining an IEE. While the agency can provide a list of evaluators, you are afforded the opportunity to choose your own barring the evaluator meets their criteria. The agency may not impose conditions or timelines related to obtaining an IEE except for those outlined in the criteria.
You may choose to include additional information you feel pertinent to the situation. In our case, we had convened for numerous meetings with our son's team and felt they did not have the proper knowledge about Tourette Syndrome and the comorbidites despite our best efforts to educate them. We felt this was important to include as we wanted to reiterate the importance of having him evaluated by a person with an extensive understanding of Tourette. This was also useful when our requested evaluator geographical location was over 5 hours from our home.
This is the letter we submitted when we requested an IEE at public expense for our younger son and can be used as a guide to draft your own letter if you feel an IEE is necessary.
December 7, 2017
Dad and Mom Smith
123 4th Street
Sunshine, IA 12345
Mr. Joe Brown, Superintendent, NSCSD
456 7th St.
Sunshine, IA 12345
Dear Mr. Brown,
Our son, J.Smith, is in the first grade at Sunshine Elementary in Mrs. Green's class. He has been evaluated for special education services twice: once in the fall of 2016, as well as February and March of 2017. We are writing to request an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense for the following reasons:
-We disagree with the evaluation results
-The evaluation was incomplete and additional tests are needed
Our son has been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, anxiety, and OCD tendencies. He exhibits characteristics of a child with written language and social skills deficits, as well as other possible learning disabilities.
Tourette Syndrome is a complex and misunderstood disorder. Tourette and the comorbid conditions that accompany it can severely impact education. In order to understand J.'s needs, it is imperative our son be evaluated by a team familiar and experienced with Tourette Syndrome and the comorbidities.
We would like the Independent Educational Evaluation to be done in a timely manner so we can fully address J.'s needs. We would appreciate a response by December 14th.
Please send us copies of the school’s guidelines regarding this matter.
Thank you, Mom and Dad Smith
CC: Ann White, Principal
Matt Black Educational Consultant
Bill Blue, Special Education Coordinator
Missy Gray, Teacher
Sam Pink, Special Education Teacher
Early assessment and identification is critical for a child's success. This is why it is important to specifically request a comprehensive evaluation when you initiate the process. Time is of the essence. Ensuring all domains are evaluated within the 60 calendar day period will provide the best overall picture of your child's strengths and deficits. If you feel your child's evaluation is not an accurate reflection, you may wish to pursue an IEE at public expense.
Please note, you may request an IEE after any evaluation, whether it be an initial or a reevaluation, but you are only allowed one request per evaluation conducted by the school district. Once complete, the IEE must be considered by the school district and is a wonderful blue print for developing an appropriate IEP to ensure a child is receiving a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
When an IEE is requested, the district must ensure the IEE is provided at public expense or file a due process complaint notice to request a hearing. At the hearing, if the agency's evaluation is deemed appropriate, a parent has the right to obtain an evaluation, but at their expense.