Determining and meeting students’ individual needs in school occurs at several levels, beginning informally when a teacher or the student’s parents first express a concern about the child’s learning or school performance, and potentially progressing through a formalized evaluation in order to determine eligibility for special education support services. Click on the links below for more information about each step of this process and related topics:
When a parent or teacher has concerns about a student–whether academic, personal, social, or behavioral–those concerns should be brought to the attention of the building administrator or counselor. Depending on how serious the concerns are, and how long they have been observed, the student may be referred to the Child Study Team for review and discussion.
The Child Study Team process is the starting point for more formally addressing student concerns, and for documenting what efforts have been made to help the student be more successful. The “team” may consist of a building administrator, the classroom teacher, a counselor, and special education instructional and diagnostic staff (such as a school psychologist, school social worker, speech and language pathologist, etc.).
The goal of the team is to discuss the student’s learning or behavior issues impacting classroom performance, the effectiveness of strategies or interventions used thus far, and additional strategies that might be attempted. Some possibilities include:
Because there may be a variety of reasons for the student’s difficulties in school (developmental, home circumstances, classroom factors, etc.), the Child Study Team does not always recommend that a formal special education evaluation be completed, and may determine that other options should first be considered. Such options might include further observation, collecting more data or background information, additional classroom support or instructional techniques, scheduling a parent meeting, or developing a systematic intervention plan.
After discussing the student’s functioning and reviewing the interventions that have been tried, the Child Study Team may determine that his/her difficulties are significant enough to suspect a disability in some area and that a comprehensive special education evaluation should be completed. However, a referral for such an evaluation will be made only via the Child Study Team process. At that time, a member of the team will contact the student’s parents to inform them of the recommendation, arrange to have them fill out the Parent Questionnaire or meet with the school social worker to complete a developmental history, and then sign the Review of Existing Evaluation Data (REED) and Evaluation Plan form granting consent to proceed.
Once the Child Study Team determines that a comprehensive special education evaluation is warranted, a member of the team sends out a Parent Questionnaire or the school social worker arranges to meet with the parent(s) in order to obtain a developmental history. Then, after signing the Review of Existing Evaluation Data (REED) and Evaluation Plan form granting consent to proceed, the special education referral is processed through the Special Education office. The Special Education office secretary will provide the parents with a copy of the Special Education Parent Handbook with Procedural Safeguards at that time, and the evaluation process is initiated.
The evaluation team is made up of educational professionals knowledgeable in the suspected area(s) of disability. It may include one or more teachers, speech and language pathologist, psychologist, school social worker, teacher consultant, physical or occupational therapist, or others.
Team members will evaluate the strengths and needs of the student using a variety of techniques and sources. They will also review relevant information such as school records, other assessment data, medical history, and information provided by parents and teachers. If an evaluation outside of the school system has been completed, that information should be shared with the evaluation team, as well.
Parent/guardian participation in the evaluation process is very important. Parents can assist the team by providing all of the requested information, including any questionnaires or rating scales, in a timely fashion. They can also assist the team by speaking with the child and helping him/her understand that the process is intended to help him/her experience greater success in the school setting.
The evaluation team has 30 school days in which to complete a comprehensive assessment of the student’s educational needs. Once the evaluation is completed, a written report will be sent to the parents and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team meeting scheduled to review our findings, determine the student’s special education eligibility, discuss his/her needs, and develop an educational program to best meet those needs. Note that there is a provision for any team member to write a dissenting report if he/she does not agree with the final recommendation of the evaluation team or the decision of the IEP Team.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team is established and must convene following the completion of an initial special education evaluation. The IEP Team comprises the final step in the school’s formal process of evaluating and reviewing a student’s educational needs in a fair and comprehensive manner, and is responsible for ensuring that an eligible student’s learning program meets his/her particular needs.
Parents are integral members of this team, and will be asked to provide insights into helping their child succeed. After reviewing the findings and recommendation of the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team, the IEP Team will make a final determination regarding special education eligibility based on legal guidelines. It will then offer recommendations to address specific educational needs. When a student does qualify for support, an appropriate educational plan involving special education programs and services will be developed as a team and formalized in writing (i.e., the IEP).
An IEP Team meeting is held after the initial evaluation of a referred student is completed. For student’s eligible for special education services, such a meeting is also held annually to review progress toward annual goals and objectives written by the IEP Team, and following each re-evaluation of the student’s eligibility completed every three years (by law). The IEP Team meeting must be held at a mutually agreed upon time and place. However, if the parents are unable to attend the meeting for any reason, they still may provide input in other ways, such as verbally to other team members and/or in writing. An IEP Team meeting may also occur more often if a change in program is needed.
Parents have a number of rights regarding the IEP Team process. These, among others, are listed in the Special Education Parent Handbook with Procedural Safeguards that was received when the evaluation consent form was signed. Some of these rights include the right to:
*It should be noted that, at age 18, all parental rights are transferred to the student.
ADA American with Disabilities Act
ADHD Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder
ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
CI Cognitive Impairment
CP Cerebral Palsy
EI Emotional Impairment
ECDD Early Childhood Developmental Delay
ECSE Early Childhood Special Education
FAPE Free Appropriate Public Education
HI Hearing Impaired
IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEP Individualized Education Program
IEPT Individualized Education Program Team
IQ Intelligence Quotient
ISD Intermediate School District
LD Learning Disability
LEA Local Education Agency
LRE Least Restrictive Environment
MET Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team
OHI Other Health Impairment
OM Orientation and Mobility
OT Occupational Therapist or Occupational Therapy
PI Physical Impairment
PLAAFP Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance
PT Physical Therapist or Physical Therapy
REED Review of Existing Evaluation Data (REED) and Evaluation Plan
SLI Speech and Language Impairment
SXI Severe Multiple Impairment
SSW School Social Worker
TBI Traumatic Brain Injury
TC Teacher Consultant
VI Visual Impairment