Determining Student’s Needs

Determining Student’s Needs

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:

Pre-Referral Process

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:


  • Adjustments in classroom instruction techniques
  • Classroom peer support
  • Organizational tools for use within the classroom and at home
  • Development of an action plan for behavioral support
  • Help from general education consultants, paraprofessionals or volunteers
  • Supplementary materials and technology


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.

Referral Process

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.

Evaluation Process

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.

The Individual Education Program (IEP) Team

What is 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).


When is an IEP Team meeting held?

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.


Who attends the IEP Team meeting?

  1. A representative of the student’s school district, other than his/her teacher (unless excused from attending by the parent).
  2. The student’s teacher(s), at least one of whom must be a regular education teacher (unless excused from attending by the parent).
  3. A member of the evaluation team who will present the team’s written report and recommendation (unless excused from attending by the parent).
  4. The student’s parents, who by law must be invited to be active participants in the meeting. Parent participation is very important, as they have considerable firsthand knowledge and insights concerning their child and his/her needs. If the IEP Team meeting time is inconvenient, it is the parents’ right to request a more agreeable time.
  5. The student, if appropriate, and any other participant who may be invited by the parent or school district with prior notice (e.g., tutor, psychologist, advocate, friend). Typically, beginning at 7th grade, students are expected to attend and participate in their own IEP Team meeting. At age 18, the student attends and acts as his/her own representative.


What are the parents’ rights related to the IEP Team?*

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:

  • be notified before an IEP Team meeting is held, and have the purpose of the meeting explained;
  • be invited to the meeting, and involved in any decisions made concerning the student;
  • be notified of others who are invited to the IEP Team meeting;
  • have the IEP Team meeting scheduled at a mutually convenient time;
  • have one or more parent-invited person(s) attend the meeting;
  • have the student attend, if appropriate;
  • participate in the development of the student’s IEP;
  • review school records prior to the IEP Team meeting;
  • receive a copy of the completed IEP.


*It should be noted that, at age 18, all parental rights are transferred to the student.

Commonly Used Acronyms

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