Does your child have learning or social challenges at school and at home? Have you ever had your child tested for language based learning challenges or attention problems? Have you always thought your child was just a bit different from his/her peers?
Do yourself and your child a favor and believe in your gut feelings. Go to your pediatrician and get some names of school certified psychologist that can do testing to see if your child is having any difficulty and if you find that you are correct, write a letter to the principal and the Special Education Department of your school district requesting a Comprehensive Evaluation.
After receiving your certified letter the District will then set up a time to evaluate your child. The district is supposed to have the evaluation done in a timely manner, which I think at this point is 60 school days after your request was received. Call the school and the district 3 days after to make sure they got your letter and ask them when they will be able to begin testing. This lets them know that you are going to keep the ball rolling.
Make sure you send copies of your reports to them so they know why you are requesting the evaluation. Once testing is done the District will write a Comprehensive Evaluation Report or CER. If there are issues that are related to learning, social skills, fine and gross motor skills the District will create the IEP or Individual Education Plan. You should get a copy of the CER and review it very carefully to make sure that what they have put in the report follows what you see at home and with his school work. If you feel that things are missing or not clear you can add your comments and ask them to change the report. Make sure they also attach copies of any private testing that you had done. You also have the right to request that the District to do certain testing. For instance if you think that your child has and auditory processing issue you can request that they have the IU (Intermediate Unit) test him/her for that. If you think that your child has difficulty with writing you can request an OT evaluation. (Occupational Therapy), which works on fine and gross motor skills and other spatial related areas that might make learning difficult for your child.
You also have the right to ask what tests the District will want to do and you can request that they do the testing that you want them to do. If they do not want to do the testing, you have the right to go to mediation and request that the testing be done or that they pay for the testing that you have done. If they do not want to use your testing to create the CER you can mediate that also.
Special Education takes a great financial toll on your District so understand that unless your child is more than 1.5 years behind his peers they will not want to run every test that you might want them to run. While early intervention is the best intervention, Districts do not like testing first or second graders unless they are seriously behind. It is difficult for teachers with 30 young ones in her class to recognize if Billy is struggling or just a little slower to catch on, that is why it is so important for you to know and to fight for your child.
There is much involved in the whole process of making sure your child is getting an appropriate education, not just for you but also for your child. Find support groups within your District and start net-working and talking to other parents. Educate yourself by reading, talking and asking questions. Stay firm and resolved because you are the only one that truly knows your child.
For more information or questions please feel free to email me on WyzAnt. If I can help you with this process in anyway, I will do my best. Many things have changed since my children were in the Special Education Process and I know how difficult it can be to learn the ropes and boy are there a lot of ropes!
Good Luck and remember your child was placed in your arms for reasons that are beyond our comprehension. We have been entrusted to love them completely and to raise them up to the best of our abilities, so place your armor on one piece at a time but leave your heart bare for your child.