There are two ways the identification process for special education can be started. It can either be initiated by the school or by the parent. Either way, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires that both the school and parent be involved in the process. Parental involvement is especially crucial since parents know their child best and it is their efforts that will help ensure an appropriate education for their child.
As mentioned in a previous post, there are a variety of reasons parents should stay very involved in their child’s education, regardless of disability. With this in mind, if you feel that your child is struggling or falling behind at school, it is important to communicate with your child’s teacher and address your concerns to them. Having an honest and open conversation can pave the way for making a great ally for the future. Another resource is your child’s school records. As you review them with your child’s teacher, you can discuss possible adjustments that might be made in class, or extra help at home that might remediate any existing classroom behavior or learning issues. However, even with these efforts you may still need to take more significant steps to provide your child what they need.
At this point you will want to put in a formal request for evaluation for special education for your child. You may also benefit from consulting a legal guide such as “The Complete IEP Guide, How to Advocate for your Special Ed Child” by Attorney Lawrence Siegel, NOLO publishing 2017 in order to understand your and your child’s legal rights within this process. Once you put in your formal request, the school will evaluate your child and set a meeting to determine your child’s eligibility for IEP services.
In part III we will discuss what goes into eligibility determination, then we will discuss the school’s legal requirements if one of their students is found eligible and what that means for you and your IEP eligible child on an ongoing basis.