Sunday, September 15, 2013

What to do if you think your child may need special education?

What should you do if you think their child might have special education needs?
  • Is your child struggling to understand?
  • Is your child struggling with homework?
  • Is your child failing quizzes and tests?
  • Is your child fighting in school?
  • Is the school complaining about your child's behavior?
  • Is the teacher reporting your child is not paying attention?
  • Is the teacher telling you that your child is not turning in homework?

If you answer YES to any of the above questions, OR is you have any reason to believe your child is having any difficulty or any issues in school or if you have any concerns, the school should be offering to test your child (that's the obligation of all school districts and charter schools in Arizona under CHILD FIND).  But if the school has not told you it needs to evaluate your child, then do not wait.  Be proactive.  Ask the school to evaluate whether your child needs special education and related services.  How do you ask, and who do you ask?  Send an e-mail to the special education director (find the email address on the website for the school district) and the Principal and your child's teacher. 

The first step to determine if your child actually requires special education is an assessment - an evaluation.  An assessment /evaluation is the process of gathering information about your child to make decisions about a potential disability category, strengths, weaknesses and areas of need.  Testing may be in the areas of academic functioning, cognitive functioning, behavior, speech and language, fine motor, gross motor, auditory and/or visual processing, sensory processing, social-emotional, neuropsychological, executive functioning skills (attention, organization), memory, etc.

The School District or Charter School will perform the assessments, but parents may ask for an INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL EVALUATION (IEE), at the expense of the school district or charter school, if the parents do not agree with the results.  If you, as parents or guardians, pay for a private assessment and submit the results to the school district/charter school, the school district/charter school must consider the results.  The school district/charter school is not obligated or required to accept those results, but is must consider them.

If your child is found to have a disability, that is only the first step toward determining if he or she needs special education.  The next step is whether your child needs special education to access the general education curriculum.  For example, a child with ADHD may not necessarily require special education (an IEP) and may merely require accommodations via a 504 plan.

The important question is what your child needs to receive benefit from the curriculum being taught?  Make certain you understand your child's needs, as well as your legal rights to help your child.  Make sure you understand the difference between an IEP / special education and a 504 Plan.  Your child is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under both.

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