Is my child eligible for an individualized education program?

If your child is struggling in school, has a difficult time concentrating or seems withdrawn, you may be wondering what you can do as a parent to help your child succeed. Your child may have a learning disability or another impairment that is making school difficult for him or her. If your child is struggling, it is important to request an assessment to see if your child is eligible for special education.

Children who qualify for special education will receive an individualized education program (IEP). This is a document that describes your child's education needs as well as the services that your school district will provide to meet your child's needs. IEP can also refer to the process of creating the IEP document.

How can I request an assessment?

As a parent, you can write a letter addressed to your local educational agency, which is usually your local school district. This letter, called a referral for assessment, should state that your child is experiencing learning problems that may require special education services, and that you would like an evaluation.

The letter should also include:

  • Your child's name, date of birth, enrollment status and school name
  • Your name, address and phone number
  • Any history of special education services your child has previously received

Once written and properly addressed, you can deliver it to your child's teacher or principal. However, you should be sure to keep for your own records a copy of your letter with the date you delivered it to the school.

What might happen after an assessment is requested?

After the school district receives your request, it has 15 days to provide you with a proposed assessment plan that details the types of assessments that would be conducted. Then, you can choose to consent to the assessment plan or not.

If your child receives the assessments, you will be presented the results as well as an opinion on whether or not your child should be considered eligible for special education. Only certain disabilitiesmay qualify your child for special education services.

If your child is found eligible for special education services and you approve that finding, you will begin attending meetings at your child's school at least one a year to help write and update your child's IEP document. If the school district does not believe your child is eligible for special education services, you can agree with their finding, or you can disagree and request an independent assessment at public expense.

If your child is struggling in school, it is important for you to ask for help. Your child may be eligible to receive services to help address his or her specific needs. Identifying a problem early can help make sure your child receives the support he or she requires to be successful.

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