As you navigate the world of special needs, especially results of a professional evaluation, it can be confusing to know what comes next. Each new piece of information leads to more questions. Evaluation results definitely contain information that should guide your actions.
As a reminder, a professional evaluation is recommended when a child exhibits unusual behavior that might indicate the presence of a disability which could trigger the need for special education resources when they start school.
Evaluation results often contain statistical language such as norms, standard scores and standard deviations. These technical terms describe how closely the child’s score matches the average of scores in the child’s peer group. This way of expressing results gives parents, educators and clinicians an objective way to measure behavior. It allows for something closer to an apples-to-apples comparison between the child and their peers—which supports an unbiased assessment.
When it’s time to make key decisions about the child’s education, the evaluation is Exhibit A: Based on the results, you’ll want to focus on two important questions to determine your next steps: Does the child need special education resources from the school? And if so, which available resources should be considered? The more objective data you have about the child’s status, the more effectively you and school administrators can meet the child’s educational needs.
Just because a child has a disability, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need extra help to succeed in a publicly funded school. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a child must satisfy two conditions to qualify for mandated special education resources: they must (1) be diagnosed with one of 13 specific conditions, and (2) their success in school must depend on availability of special ed resources.
If the child meets both preconditions for special ed services, the evaluation serves as a foundation for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which the school must propose. You’ll have opportunities to scrutinize the draft IEP and request changes to ensure the plan addresses the child’s needs to your satisfaction.
During this process, the child may have fears and questions of their own. You can use the evaluation results to explain the findings and what actions you’re planning as a result. It can be comforting to have unbiased information to rely on.
Even if the child is not a candidate for special ed services from the school district, you may want to share the evaluation results with the child’s teachers. If there’s a previously undetected mild hearing loss, for example, the teachers would need to know about it—even if it doesn’t trigger an IEP and official special ed resources.
What if you think the evaluation is simply wrong? You have recourse. One option is to request an independent evaluation—not unlike a second opinion from a doctor. Another option: if the child doesn’t qualify for special ed resources under IDEA rules, a 504 plan could be a good alternative. It’s similar to an IEP in some respects: proposed by the school and authorized under federal legislation. But unlike an IEP, a 504 plan helps remove barriers to learning, so kids with less severe disabilities can get the support they need to succeed in school alongside their peers.
Arranging for special ed resources for a child can be a daunting process. We can perform a variety of evaluations and assessments to establish whether a child has special needs. And our Center for Educational Advocacy can also help you secure public school resources to support educational success. To learn more, and arrange a tour, call us at 904-346-5100.