The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that a full and individualized evaluation be conducted before your child can be provided special education and related services. In addition to initial eligibility evaluations, reevaluations occur on a regular basis throughout your child’s education to determine the need for continued and new services. It is important to understand your family’s rights during the evaluation process, what is considered during an evaluation, and what happens if you disagree with the results.
Initiating an evaluation
Parents can request an evaluation for their child. Additionally, sometimes a preschool teacher may have concerns about your child and recommend an evaluation. A parent’s permission is ALWAYS required before an evaluation can take place.
Permission to evaluate
A parent must sign a permission form that describes the evaluation before the evaluation can take place. In most states, this form is called a Permission to Evaluate (PTE) form. By signing it, a parent is agreeing to an evaluation for his or her child. When you are given the PTE form, you should also be given a document, called a Procedural Safeguards Notice, which explains your rights in the Preschool Special Education system. After you sign the PTE agreeing to an evaluation, the evaluation must be completed within 60 days. Agreeing to have your child evaluated does not mean that you are agreeing to your child receiving special education services. You will need to agree to services separately if your child is found to need them. (This will be done after a separate meeting to create an Individualized Education Program – IEP – for your child.)
Parent contributions to the evaluation
Your child will be evaluated by a team, which includes qualified professionals and you, the parent. You have known your child longer than anyone else on the team and have valuable information about your child to contribute.
Parents should always take advantage of the opportunity to provide information to the rest of the team. At a minimum, parents should submit their observations of the child, including frustration triggers for the child, the child’s temperament, and the parents’ observations of how the child’s disability affects him or her. Parents should also submit any outside reports they have obtained during the child’s life, including diagnostic evaluations or reports from mental or behavioral health professionals, other doctors, and any observations or concerns from childcare providers.
Many states, including Pennsylvania, require that the team evaluating your child be “multidisciplinary.” A multidisciplinary evaluation (MDE) means that the professionals on the team who are evaluating your child come from different educational and professional backgrounds. They will each look at your child in a different way and together will come up with a more well-rounded evaluation than if the evaluation was done by a single person or by one type of professional. For example, a psychologist and a speech therapist will use different tools to evaluate your child and will each have something different to contribute to the evaluation.
Evaluation tests and information considered
In determining whether your child qualifies for Preschool Special Education services, the evaluation team will use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about your child. There is not one test or assessment that the decision will depend on.
Children must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability. Academic ability is only one part of the evaluation. Social, behavioral, and emotional skills and abilities which are needed for classroom learning and for interactions with peers and teachers are also assessed. If the evaluation team is not equipped to do certain types of evaluations, they must hire outside professionals who are qualified to do the specific testing. Parents may obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for their child, which the school must consider. In some circumstances, the parents may be able to get the school to pay for the IEE, particularly in cases where the school refused to evaluate a certain aspect of the child’s disability or if there were flaws in the school’s evaluation.
The Evaluation Report
Once the evaluation is complete, an Evaluation Report (ER) will be put together. It will state whether or not your child is eligible for Preschool Special Education services. If so, based on what is included in the ER, a plan – called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) – will be written. The IEP is the document that describes your child’s individual and specific learning plan, what services your child will receive, and where your child will receive them. Parents, who know and understand their child best, are important members of the team that develops the IEP.
After your child is initially determined eligible for special education services, federal law (IDEA) requires that your child be reevaluated at least once every 3 years, unless both the parent and the educational agency agree that it is unnecessary. (If you live in Pennsylvania, Preschool Special Education reevaluations must occur every 2 years.) It is rarely a good idea to waive a reevaluation. A reevaluation can provide updated information about your child’s needs and accomplishments that will help the IEP team continue to provide appropriate services for your child. In fact, if needed, you or your child’s teachers can request a reevaluation at any time; however, reevaluations can be limited to once a year unless agreed otherwise. You will need to request an evaluation by completing a form; similarly, a form is needed to waive an evaluation.
- Procedural Safeguards for Families of Preschool and School-Age Students
- Independent Educational Evaluations
- IEP Basics for Families of Preschool Students
- My Child is Not Eligible for Preschool Special Education – What Now??