If you think your child is in need of special educational services from your public school there are a few things you need to know to navigate the system and be the best advocate possible for your child. Under IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities educational act, every child is entitled to be tested for disabilities at the request of either parent or teacher. To obtain testing for your child if you feel they are in need of services request in writing an evaluation for your child. Send your request to your child principal. Any child between the ages of 3 to 20 can be eligible for testing.
When requesting testing for your child, ask that he be tested in all domains including speech, hearing, emotional, general intelligence, academic intelligence, communication skills, motor abilities, health and vision. Make sure you put your request in writing, be exact, and date it.
Time lines are extremely important when you’re dealing with a school system bureaucracy. Be sure to keep a folder with all communication you have with the school dated and timed. Include a phone log with exact dates, times and who you talked to. If possible tape your phone calls. Send all communication with the school by certified mail. It may seem excessive but remember the schools primary concern is their bureaucracy, not your child. If your child needs extend beyond what they can easily provide in a regular class room the school may try to avoid giving your child needed help.
You should receive a copy of your states laws and regulations outlining your rights as a parent in the testing, evaluation and implementation of special educational services for your child. Read these regulations very carefully and familiarize yourself with the timelines and language used in the process. Don’t neglect to do this! If you are having trouble understanding the language of the rules and regulations ask for help in explaining them to you. The school is required to make sure you understand your rights.
Your school system has a certain number of days to complete your child evaluation and a certain number of days to schedule an IEP. If they fail to complete it in this time you have a right to request a resolution meeting from the state. You also, have a right to request an independent evaluation for your child at the schools expense if you disagree with their evaluation conclusions. Put all request in writing.
Once testing of your child is completed, a time for an IEP or individual educational Plan meeting will be scheduled. You have a right to take supportive people of your choice with you to the IEP meeting. If all seems to be going well just ask anyone you feel would be helpful to go with you and take notes of the meeting for you. If all does not seem to be going well you may want to hire an educational advocate and plan on taping the meeting.