Eligibility is a process that is dictated by a law called Child Find. A lot of parents aren't familiar with Child Find, but essentially it requires school districts to identify and provide services to all students with disabilities no matter where they go to school. So that includes children that are homeschooled, children that go to parochial schools, and children that go to other private institutions.
If you think your child might be eligible for special education or if you are seeing delays or you have concerns, you need to contact your school district and ask them to do an evaluation of your child. The school district will then make arrangements to bring your child in and do testing on a multitude of different areas.
It's important to note that schools are responsible for testing all areas of suspected disability. For example, if you know that your child's speech is delayed but you are not really sure about their motor skills, you need to bring those issues to their attention. And they have a responsibility to test in those areas.
Occasionally school districts will refuse to evaluate a child. This is a big problem for parents because districts have a mandate to evaluate. If you've asked your school district to evaluate your child and they have refused, you should contact us so that we can guide you through that process. I can say with certainty that I have always, always been able to get a district to agree to a child's evaluation and subsequent services.
Once the district evaluates your child, you will have a meeting with a lot of people there. This is where it gets intimating especially for first-time parents, because the district will have so many different professionals at the table talking about your child's testing and what they learned.
If your child has some obvious disabilities, they are going to be found eligible for services and generally, an IEP will be written that day. Sometimes, however, the district might say that your child does not qualify for services. And then you disagree with them. Where does that leave you? What can you do?
If you really believe that your child needs special education, you should contact an advocate or an attorney if the district is refusing to provide.
We can help you navigate that road to get additional testing done and to define the areas where your child needs help so that an IEP can be developed. If you have concerns that your child might need special education and you want to request an evaluation from your school district, check out the sample letter below. You are welcome to fill in your child's information and send it to your district.
Sample Letter Requesting an Evaluation for Special Education
Child Find Law: IDEA Sec. 300.111
Understood.org Article: What to Expect at an IEP Eligibility Meeting