Steps to Initiate a Special Education Assessment
Step 1: Contact your district to request that the child is assessed for a disability.
Anyone who knows the child well can request that he or she be evaluated for a disability. These requests are best made in writing with some specific reasons why you believe the child should be evaluated. Often, school districts prefer to hold Student Study Team (SST) meetings prior to assessing a child. An SST is a meeting where teachers, caregivers, and others can discuss the challenges (and successes) the child is having and propose some regular education resources that may alleviate the problems. SSTs can be productive; however, there is no legal requirement to hold an SST before assessing a child.
Step 2: The district sends an assessment plan to the holder of educational rights (more on educational decision making below).
Once an assessment request is made, the school district has 15 days to either provide an assessment plan or deny the request. If the district denies the request, you have the right to challenge the decision.
Step 3: The educational decision-maker consents to the district's assessment plan.
The assessment plan will include a number of evaluation areas (for example, Language/Speech Development and Social/Emotional/Adaptive/Behavior). The district will only evaluate the areas which have a check in the corresponding box. If you believe that the district has not identified all of the appropriate evaluation areas, contact the district representative who sent the assessment plan. If you are satisfied with the proposed assessment plan, sign it and fax or send it back to the district representative. The district will have 60 days to complete the assessment and hold a meeting to discuss the results of the assessment. If the child is found to be eligible for special education, the district will present, at this initial meeting, an outline of what your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will consist of - in other words, what modifications they are proposing to better serve your child in light of their newly identified disability.
Their proposed plan is not final, and this initial IEP meeting will give you an opportunity to shape your child's IEP. The IEP will not be implemented until the holder of educational rights signs the document. Once they do, the IEP should go into effect immediately. If, after the assessment, the district determines that the child is not eligible for special education, they will discuss this finding. You may disagree with this finding, and you do have recourse.
Resources to assist families with students who have special needs are made available through the San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).
Mary Yung, Ed.D.
Executive Director, SELPA
Phone: (650) 802-5465
Phone: (650) 802-5464