The Evaluation Process Under IDEA
Services under IDEA begin with a process of screening and evaluations of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. The process can begin as early as birth and continues through age 21.
Evaluations of young children up to the age of 3 may lead to recommended services called Early Intervention (EI) services. Parents are often prompted to seek such evaluation of their infant or toddler by physicians or certified caregivers. These professionals may recognize a condition or special need that may affect the child’s development. Once determined necessary, the EI team recommends services with the goal of lessening the effect of any condition that may limit a child’s development. Recommended services can be remedial or preventive in nature. These services may focus on the child, but are most effective when the focus is on the child and the family together.
Evaluations of school-age children should be considered when a parent or teacher suspects that a child is having difficulty in school—whether academic, social or emotional. Parents can request an evaluation by calling or writing to the special education committee at the child’s school. In fact, the school system itself may determine that an evaluation is needed. The process most schools use to conduct an evaluation of a student may entail the following types of tests:
- Academic achievement
Once a determination of a special need is made, schools are mandated to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the student under Federal and state standards. The parents or guardians of the student have a right to join the team to develop an IEP. A special education teacher and the child’s regular education teacher must participate as well. Schools must give parents equal status as members on the IEP team. The IEP is not set in stone and can be changed at any time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for children with special needs, so parents should be encouraged to take an active role in helping to develop an IEP that suits the needs of their child.
The types of services that may be indicated in an IEP include the following:
- Social work services
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Assistive technology
- Additional academic support
The services can be provided in a regular classroom environment, in a special classroom, or one-on-one.