The hoops that parents and caregivers must jump through to access services for their children in school is an injustice one must see to truly believe! Time and time again, family members ask the schools for help diagnosing or identifying their child’s learning needs only to have their requests fall on deaf ears. As an attorney and parent advocate, I find this routine practice infuriating.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that States and local educational agencies (LEAs) have in effect policies and procedures to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the State who need special education and related services are identified, located, and evaluated, regardless of the severity of the disability. This requirement, known as Child Find, includes activities to determine whether a student is a child suspected of having a disability who should be referred for an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education. This mandate does not exclude students attending private schools, homeless children, children in detention centers, or children in residential care settings.
What does this mean for you, the parent or caregiver? If you ask for your child to be evaluated for a potential disability, or if you have told a teacher or faculty member that your child has (or might have) a disability, then the school has a legal obligation to conduct a through evaluation for the purposes of identifying and developing proper supports for your child.
The mandates for “Child Find” are so precise that schools or LEA’s are given a window of only 60 (sixty) days to complete the evaluation once it has been requested AND if the school or LEA declines to conduct the evaluation, they must provide you with their reasoning IN WRITING within that same time period.
One final note: You may request an evaluation every year, or more often if you have received new information (medication changes, medical diagnoses, etc) that may indicate an evaluation is warranted. Never apologize for requesting supports or evaluations for your child!
Below is a script I have shared with families seeking a formal evaluation for their child.
Dear (Teacher, Counselor, Principal,etc) :
I am the parent of (Child’s Name). I am concerned that my child is not doing as well in class as they could be because of a disability and I would like to request that he/she be evaluated for special education eligibility or a 504 Plan for accommodations. Please accept this letter as my formal request for, and consent to, an individual, comprehensive evaluation of (Child’s Name) educational and related needs in accordance with the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its implementing regulations. The evaluation I am requesting would cover all areas of (Child’s Name) abilities and any areas of concern. It is my understanding that Section 1414 of the IDEA requires you to begin the evaluation process at my request and begin the 60-day timeline with my consent. Please feel free to contact me to discuss any necessary arrangements for conducting the evaluation. If, for any reason, you deny this request for an evaluation for IDEA eligibility, please provide me with my written parental notice as the IDEA also requires. Thank you for your time and attention.
Sincerely, (Your Name)
Feel free to copy this wording when requesting your own child’s evaluation.
If you’d like help making the request, or attaining an evaluation despite asking in the past, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.