Does My Child Need Special Education?
As a parent, you are uniquely qualified to know your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses. If it is determined that your child is eligible for special education services, school professionals will utilize your knowledge in designing a special education program for your child’s benefit. Your child may be eligible for special education if your child: 1) Has an intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, an orthopedic impairment, a hearing impairment, deafness, a speech or language impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities and 2) Needs special education, as determined by an evaluation team. Your child must meet both qualifications in order to be eligible for special education. In Pennsylvania, all children eligible for special education have the right to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE).
NOTE: Children with disabilities who are not eligible for special education may qualify for accommodations in the general classroom under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Chapter 15 regulations apply for these students. (See below for specifics on Chapter 15) Chapter 14 regulations apply to those students who qualify for special education services by meeting the two-part criteria listed above.
Signs of Physical, Sensory, Intellectual, or Emotional Disability
Some indications that your child may have a disability that meets the first part of the two-part criteria are: • Consistent problems in getting along with others • Difficulty communicating • Lack of interest or ability in age-appropriate activities • Resistance to change • Difficulty seeing or hearing that interferes with the ability to communicate • Health problems that affect educational performance, including attention problems • Difficulty performing tasks that require reading, writing, or mathematics • Chronic behavior or social problems that affect your child’s ability to learn. Your child may need specially-designed instruction to make progress in school. This need for special education is the second part of the two-part criteria to be eligible for special education services.
Your child’s school has a screening process in place that identifies students who may need special education. This process may or may not lead to an initial evaluation for special education and should include: • A review of the student’s records, including attendance and report cards • A review of the student’s vision and hearing • Assessments at reasonable intervals to determine a student’s performance based on grade-appropriate standards in core academic subjects • A systematic observation of the student’s behavior in the classroom or area in which the student is displaying difficulty. You may request an initial evaluation at any time, without going through these screening activities.
The Evaluation Process
The evaluation team gathers the information that will be used to determine if your child needs special education and, if so, the types of programs and services needed. Your child may be evaluated by a school psychologist. Other evaluations may include tests by a hearing specialist for a child with a hearing problem. The evaluation must also include input from a certified professional if certain services, called “related services,” may be needed. An example is speech therapy (for speech and language) or occupational therapy (for fine motor and other skills).
A child may be referred for the first (or initial) evaluation in different ways: •
You may ask your school to evaluate your child for special education at any time. This can be done by sending a letter to the principal of your child’s school. It is recommended that you keep a record of your written or verbal request. A Permission to Evaluate– Evaluation Request form should be sent to you within 10 calendar days after the receipt of your request.
The school may contact you to request permission to have your child evaluated. You must consent in writing to your child’s evaluation. School officials cannot proceed without your written permission. To give permission for the evaluation process to begin, you must sign the Permission to Evaluate-Consent form given to you by your local educational agency (LEA). The entire evaluation process must be completed within 60 calendar days (not including summer vacation) from the date your permission is received by the LEA. If your child is eligible for special education, the Evaluation Report must be given to you at least 10 school days before a meeting is held to discuss your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). A parent may not feel the 10 days are necessary and must put in writing to the school that the meeting may be held sooner than 10 days. Either way, you will be invited to the meeting. The types of tests used in the evaluation process depend upon the educational needs of your child. In most cases, your child may be given several tests to help find strengths and needs. Someone other than your child’s general classroom teacher may also observe your child in class. Part of the evaluation includes gathering input from parents about their child. Information that you share about your child is very important and must also be included in the evaluation.
What the Evaluation Will Tell You
The evaluation will include information about your child’s skills, strengths, and needs. All evaluations and reevaluations (which are evaluations done at 2- or 3-year intervals after the initial evaluation) must include a review of the testing and assessments that were conducted, information from the parents, classroom observations, and the observations of teachers and related service personnel. The evaluation or reevaluation must also tell you what additions or changes are needed to help your child meet the goals in your child’s educational program described in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), and to take part in and progress in the general curriculum (the skills and knowledge taught in a specific LEA). An evaluation team reviews all materials and writes a report called an Evaluation Report (ER) that states if your child has a disability and if your child needs special education. It makes recommendations about the types of services your child needs. The ER may state that your child is not eligible and does not need special education services. You will receive a copy of the ER and a written notice stating that you have the right to disagree. If your child is being evaluated for a specific learning disability, parents (as members of the evaluation group) will be given an opportunity to agree or disagree with the results of the ER. Next to your name, you will indicate whether or not you agree with the report. If you do not agree, you may give the team your opinion in writing, on the parts of the report where you disagree. This is sometimes called a “dissenting opinion,” which will become part of the final ER. A copy of the final ER must be given to the parents.
Gifted Education (Chapter 16)
The Delaware Valley School District provides Gifted Education services to school-age students identified as gifted who require these services to reach their potential. If your child is identified by the district as possibly in need of such services, you will be notified of applicable procedures. If you believe that your school-age child may be in need of Gifted Education services, you may request screening and evaluation at any time whether or not your child is enrolled in the district’s public school program. Requests for evaluation and screening are to be made in writing to the building principal or school counselor.
Confidentiality: All information gathered about your child is subject to the confidentiality provisions contained in federal and state law. The district has policies and procedures in effect governing the collection, maintenance, destruction and disclosure to third parties of this information.
Protected Handicapped (Chapter 15) Students
In compliance with state and federal law, the Delaware Valley School District will provide to each protected handicapped student without discrimination or cost to the student or family, those related aids, services or accommodations which are needed to provide equal opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school program and extra-curricular activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the student’s abilities. In order to qualify as a protected handicapped student the child must be school age with a physical or mental disability which substantially limits or prohibits participation in or access to an aspect of the school program. Contact your child’s school counselor or administrator for more information on this process. These services and protections for “protected handicapped students” are distinct from those applicable to all eligible or exceptional students enrolled (or seeking enrollment) in special education programs.