Annual IEP Meetings: What if my child does not have an IEP but may be eligible for special education?

I have recently posted information that addresses annual IEP meetings that may occur during the spring for families of children with disabilities. But what if your child has not been evaluated yet and you think your child may qualify for special education?  This may be a good time of the school year to assert your rights to start the process for your child to become elgibile for special education and related services.   Recently, a parent called me and has been waiting for the school system to evaluate her child.  The mother has attended SST (Student Support Team Meetings) or other informal meetings with the Principal with no results.  The school system kept telling the parent that there is a long wait for evaluations and she would agree not to ask for one.  This is nonsense!  The mother told me that her child has ADHD and is constantly being suspended. Her child has a Section 504 plan but she does not think the school system ever considered her child for special education eligibility under the IDEA. What should she do?

I recommended that the mother immediately request that the Special Education Department of the school system evaluate her child to determine special education eligibility under the IDEA.  A parent has the right to request that the school system evaluate her child to determine special education eligibility.  A school system can refuse to evaluate her child but must give her parental rights so that she is aware of her right to challenge the refusal of the school system to evaluate her child. In this case, the school system agreed to evaluate her child.  The parent signed the necessary parental consent forms and was advised of her parent rights concerning the evaluation. Now the school system will begin the process of evaluating her child.  By the beginning of next school year, the school system will have to convene an eligibility meeitng to determine whether her child qualifies under the IDEA.  Therefore, for parents that believe that their child may qualify for special education and related services, this is a good time of year to request that your child be evaluated by the school system. Do not be persuaded by lame excuses by the school system that an evaluation is unwarranted or unnecessary. Insist that the evaluation be conducted.  You should also be aware that even if you have an independent educational evaluation indicating that your child has a disability this may not suffice to determine your child eligibility for special education under the IDEA.  Sometimes a school system may accept an independent educational evaluation to determine eligibilty.  Most of the time an IEE will not be accepted for this purpose. The school system has a legal right and obligation to evaluate your child in the event she has a suspected disability that may adversely affect her educational performance.  For this reason, you should agree to the school system’s request to evaluate your child and wait for the results to determine whether you will need to challenge it later.