You’ve been worried for some time and suspect that something more might be getting in the way of your child’s classroom achievement and interest in school. You’ve talked informally with teachers over the years and perhaps provided some extra support at home, but it’s still not enough. You finally decided to make a formal request to your child’s school stating your concern and requesting that an IEP process begin. Within 10 days, or perhaps longer, you receive a letter inviting you to an evaluation IEP meeting. Whether it’s your first evaluation IEP meeting, or a re-evaluation meeting, there’s preparation to do.
If you suspect your child has an educational disability, you may request an evaluation IEP meeting, or what some school systems call a screening IEP meeting, by contacting the school in writing and stating that you suspect that your child has an educational disability and that you would like the assessment process to begin. No matter the school system, a meeting must be scheduled within 60 school days from your request. In NYC, the first step the school must take, after receiving a request for evaluation, is to schedule a meeting with a social worker to take a social history and to secure written informed consent before starting the evaluation. It’s advised that you organize a private, comprehensive evaluation, in which case you’ll share it with the school once it’s finalized. The school system will then propose any supplemental testing they feel is necessary.
To prepare for this evaluation IEP meeting, whether it is with the school team, an intake social worker or school psychologist, you should have the following information organized and available:
- Documentation of your area of concern(s), such as poor achievement on school and standardized tests; work samples; report cards and report card comments; conference notes from school personnel; and/or outside assessments or reports;
- If your child has behavioral and/or social-emotional issues, you should have documentation of those as well in the form of teacher comments; outside interventions; school-developed behavior contracts and a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and/or a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), if available.
- A chronological history of your child, including early interventions by professionals as well as any concerns noted and/or actions taken in pre-school or earlier;
- If your child is taking medication or has taken medication to address areas of concern or allergies, you should have a complete list, including dosage amounts, in chronological order available as well.
- If you’ve already completed a private, comprehensive evaluation, you should share it with the school team for review. Any other private evaluation, such as psychiatric evaluations, OT reports, or speech and language evaluations should be shared as well.
Once the school system determines that it will move forward with an evaluation process, the evaluations must address the following questions:
- Does the student have an educational disability?
- If so, does the student need special education intervention? If yes, then the team will move to development of an IEP. If not, there may be consideration of development of a 504 Plan.
- What accommodations or modifications to the curriculum are necessary?
- Are related services necessary?
The initial evaluation process must include:
- A social history
- A psychoeducational evaluation
- A classroom observation
- And in NYC, a recent physical evaluation. Other jurisdictions may accept a review of medical records on file at the school.
Members of the initial IEP team must include:
- Parent or guardian of the child.
- A special education teacher or provider.
- A general education teacher or provider.
- The school psychologist or an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of the evaluation(s) results.
- The student when appropriate.
- A person who is knowledgeable about the availability of district resources and is qualified to supervise special education and knows the standard grade level curriculum.
Prior to the post-assessment IEP meeting, be sure that you have received copies of ALL documents that will be shared and discussed at least 5 business days prior to the meeting so that you and your team have time to review them. Make this expectation known, in writing, when you sign the informed consent document. The information derived from the evaluations will be used to determine if your child has an educational disability and if so, if he/she needs special education intervention to access the curricula. The specifics of the interventions will be determined at an IEP development meeting, which will be scheduled for another time.
It’s important to note that you may bring anyone you would like to the evaluation IEP meeting, but it’s best practice to notify the school team in advance. Arriving with unannounced experts sets a negative tone. It’s advisable to have an expert special education advocate attend with you, and that advocate’s role may vary depending on the situation and desired outcomes. It is also advisable to retain a special education attorney because IEPs are a legal matter, but attorneys usually don’t attend school-level or CSE meetings for strategic reasons. Therefore, it is better for expert advocates to attend instead — which Laurie Gross and Brad Hoffman do for our families in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington, DC — and a collaborative effort has led to the greatest success for our students and families.