Special Education 101: Evaluations

Special Education 101 – Your Child and the Evaluation

A student with an IEP should be reevaluated at least once every three years. By “reevaluated”, the student should be evaluated in areas of need. For example, a student with heightened sensory needs should have an occupational therapy evaluation conducted. Similarly, if your child has issues with his/her speech, a speech and language evaluation would be needed. A student with reading issues, or is non-verbal, would benefit from an assistive technology evaluation.

Evaluations are incredibly important in getting your special needs child an appropriate education.

Why? I’ll sum things up in one chained sentence: bad evaluation = bad IEP = inappropriate goals and related services = poor education.

A parent can always request that an evaluation be conducted by the school district.

If the school district’s evaluation of a student is not adequate (an all too familiar tale!) the parent can either get their own evaluation at their own expense (expensive!) or request that the school district cover the cost of an independent evaluation.

If a parent requests that a school district cover the cost of an evaluation, the district has two choices: to agree to the parent’s request.. or take the matter to a hearing to defend the appropriateness of their current evaluation.

Note the two options. There is no third option, as school districts would have you believe. Phantom third options exist and a common tactic of a school district is to “agree” to your request but offer only a fraction of your chosen evaluators’ going rate (sneaky, but this goes on a lot!). Don’t fall for it, a school district has two options: either to agree to your request… or that they take the matter to a hearing to defend their own evaluation(s). If they do neither, it’s tantamount to a summary judgment (judgement in your favor).

If you, as the parent, make the request for an independent evaluation, make sure that the school district respond without unreasonable delay. Remember, these school years fly by, so you need to act quickly to make certain your child gets the evaluation(s) necessary to construct a good IEP.

While New York’s regulations are silent on the length of time the school district have to reply to a parent’s request, there are plenty of cases that have determined what constitutes an “unreasonable delay”. In addition, and one I like to use when litigating, is NYC’s Department of Education’s own procedure manual that states: “The IEP Team may not unreasonably delay (i.e., not longer than 30 days)..”

Never underestimate the power of a good evaluation.

The adequacy of your child’s education really does depend on it. For more information, or for assistance, please contact Antony M. Eminowicz, PLLC.

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