Monday, March 28, 2016

IEP and Evaluation Blog Series Post #1

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a special education teacher in addition to being an autism mom. I write IEPs and conduct evaluations for a living. I have experience on both sides of the table, and I still get anxiety before I go into one of my son's IEP meetings. I have got quite a few requests to write a blog series all about IEPs, accommodations, evaluations, and the referral process to special education. There is a ton of information to cover so I anticipate that this series will end up being three to five blog posts in length. I want to apologize upfront, but this information may get a bit confusing. If so, please feel free to comment on my Facebook page. In addition, special education laws vary by state. I teach in Washington state, so much of what I say will be specific to the state of Washington. With that being said, I have found that many states have many similarities so much of what I say will be useful regardless of where you live!

A referral to special education may be initiated by a parent, special education teacher, or a general education teacher. The WAC specifically states, "A parent of a child, a school district, a public agency, or other persons knowledgeable about the child may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the student is eligible for special education. The request will be in writing, unless the person is unable to write." A referral to special education must be in writing! Referrals should be sent to the district's special education department. After the district receives the request for an initial evaluation, the district must make a decision on whether or not they are going to evaluate within 25 days. If the school district decides to move forward with an evaluation, they must complete the initial evaluation within 35 days. Children must meet the eligibility requirements under a recognized category to meet eligibility requirements.

Some of the most popular eligibility categories are: autism, specific learning disability, health impaired, developmentally delayed, communication disordered, multi-handicapped, intellectually disabled, and emotionally behavior disturbed. Requirements to receive services vary depending upon what eligibility category the school district is looking at qualifying your child under. Typically, when a parent initially refers a child who is under 5 to special education and they do not have an autism diagnosis or another documented diagnosis, the district will look at the eligibility category of developmentally delayed. Children can qualify under this category until they reach the age of 9. It is important to note: If your child does not have a diagnosis and they are under the age of 9, you need to be specific in regards to your referral to special education. For example, what are you referring for? Some examples include: Occupational therapy, speech therapy, adaptive, social skills, behavior management, and physical therapy. The district will only test for the areas that you refer in. Under the category of developmentally delayed there must be a severe discrepancy of two standard deviations for the first qualifying area or 1.5 standard deviations if they qualify in one or more area.  To break this down, a standard score of 100 is considered average, and most people are one standard deviation from the norm which is 85 to 115. Two standard deviations would be a standard score of 70. Please see the chart break down below.

If your child already has a diagnosis of autism, things are much easier. The district just needs to demonstrate that there is an adverse educational impact in a certain area for the child to receive services. For example, my child received a standard score of 103 in written language. This score is totally average, but he qualifies in written language, because he absolutely hates writing and I could prove that there was an adverse education impact due to his disability. If my child did not have an autism diagnosis and still qualified under the category of developmentally delayed, there is absolutely no way that he would have qualified. He would have needed a standard score of 70 if that was the only area or 77 if they were looking at 2 or more areas. If a child qualified as health impaired, eligibility works similar to the category of autism. The district just needs to demonstrate that there is an adverse education impact for the child  to qualify. ADHD is listed under the health impairment category.

I have thrown out a ton of information, so I am going to give you the opportunity to process all of this information! Please feel free to ask me any additional questions!

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