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Special Education Eligibility Rules

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What happens after the evaluations are completed?

You made it past one of the most difficult stages in this process.  A lot has been said, heard, and experienced.  You may have had several meetings, met several people, and come across a lot of information.  You should applaud yourself for this courageous step on behalf of your child and his or her future. 

At this point your child should have been evaluated by all the necessary evaluators.  Each evaluator will write a report.  This written report should include evaluator observations, activities presented, names of assessment tools used, test scores, a parent interview, and service recommendations.  The school district must give you a copy of this written report.

Tip: It is strongly recommended that you obtain a copy of the evaluation report before the ARD meeting. This will allow you to carefully review the evaluation report and prepare questions and comments ahead of time.  While reviewing the reports, it would be helpful to keep the following questions in mind for yourself and the school:

  • Do the evaluation and its results make sense to me?
  • What do the scores mean?
  • What is my child doing well; where is my child having trouble?
  • What is causing the trouble, what kind of help does my child need?
  • What are my choices?
  • Who can help me understand the evaluations?

For help in understanding the test scores, meet or talk with the diagnostician and or evaluation team.  The diagnostician and evaluation team can best help you understand the evaluations.  You may also want to talk to other parents or professionals you are comfortable talking to.  Organizations for parents of children with disability and websites can also help.

How do I know if my child is eligible for services?

The evaluations and ARD committee determines a child is eligible when a child meets the following criteria:

  • The child has a disability, and;
  • As a result of the disability, the child needs special education services or related services to benefit from education.

In other words, if a child has a disability but does not need special education services to benefit from education, then the child is not eligible for services.  A child is also not eligible for special education services if the child’s difficulty is mainly due to not having enough instruction in reading or math, or due to limited English skills.
To add to this, note that a child with a medical diagnosis does not automatically qualify for special education services.  Eligibility is decided based on the type of medical diagnosis and whether the diagnosis affects the child’s education.

It is important for parents to understand the difference between a child’s medical   diagnosis and the disability categories that determine whether a child is eligible for special education services.  For IDEA’S definition of a "child with disability" and a list of the 13 different disability categories, go to Diagnosis vs. Disabi lity Category, Defining "Eligibility.”

What if my child is eligible?

Now that you know how eligibility for services is decided, you should also know the time line for the meeting with your school district.  Within 30 calendar days of completing the full initial and independent evaluation, or by the 90th day from the day of referral, the ARD committee (this includes parents) will meet.

If your child is eligible for services, you have the option to schedule an ARD Planning Conference  with the school before the actual ARD meeting.  At this planning conference you will have the opportunity to discuss and clarify information on the evaluations, the special education process and possible goals for your child.

You should expect to receive a notice about the ARD/IEP meeting at least five days before the meeting date.  At the ARD meeting, your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP) will be written.  Most importantly, the IEP will include academic and functional goals.  It will also include the strategies that will be used to reach those goals.  Once the goals and strategies are agreed upon by everyone at the ARD/IEP meeting, the type of instruction and services your child will receive will be decided.

What if my child is not eligible?

If your child is not eligible for special education services, the school district must:

  • Send you Prior Written Notice, a letter that states the reason(s) why your child is not eligible, and the steps you can take if you disagree with the decision.
  • Have an ARD meeting with you to go over the evaluation report and your procedural rights.

Children not eligible for special education, but still need special help and or accommodations to benefit from education have the following options: 

1)   To be re-connected to the "campus-based support team." This team may have different names in different schools.  Bottom line, this is the team responsible for discussing, planning and putting into effect (if one is not in place yet) the Response to Intervention (RTI) plan for your child.  In this plan the campus-based support team may include additional or new Tier 1, 2, or 3 services.

2)  To obtain support and services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  that are not covered under IDEA.

Independent Education Evaluation (IEE)

A parent who disagrees with an evaluation by the school district may request an IEE at school district expense.  IEEs are often used to get a second opinion on a diagnosis or lack thereof.  A parent is entitled to one IEE at the schools expense each time the school conducts an evaluation.

When a parent requests an IEE at school district expense, the school must either pay for this evaluation or file a request for a due process hearing.  The school does not have to pay for the IEE if a hearing officer determines that the school’s evaluation is appropriate or the parent’s requested IEE does not meet reasonable school district criteria.

An Independent education evaluation is done by a qualified examiner that does not work for the school. The school must inform the parent:

  • Where to get the IEE, and;
  • About the school districts criteria for Independent education evaluators.  The school district must give the parent a copy of the school district’s criteria for IEEs.  

You may also get the IEE completed by a professional of your choice.  Remember, the examiner must meet the qualification criteria set forth by the school district.  Be advised for the school to consider an IEE, the testing used by the independent evaluator must assess the student’s educational needs and not provide a medical diagnosis alone.

What else can I do if I disagree with the evaluation results?

  • Ask to speak with the diagnostician, evaluation team and or school district about your concerns.
  • If the above options fail, write a letter of complaint to TEA.
  • Request mediation and a due process hearing. 

For more information on the conflict resolution process – See Overview of Complaint Options .

What Parents need to remember

  • Obtain a copy of the evaluation report before the ARD meeting.
  • Seek help to better understand the evaluations.
  • Understand the eligibility guidelines.
  • Know what an IEE is, how, when, and where you can get one.
  • Understand and exercise your parental rights.

To review, click on the steps in the Evaluation Process:

After the Evaluation process is complete, the next step is IEP Development.

Additional Resources:

TEA A Guide to The ARD Process, A manual for parents

TEA  Legal Framework for the Child Centered Process – Determination of Eligibility

2012 IDEA Manual, a parent manual by The Arc of Texas and Advocacy, Incorporated

NICHCY’s Building the Legacy: A Training Curriculum on IDEA 2004 - Initial Evaluation and Reevaluation

NICHCY’s Evaluating Children for Disability

Special Education Evaluation an Overview  by GreatSchools.net http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/2031

The National Center for Learning Disabilities – IDEA Parent Guide

The National Center for Learning Disabilities – A Parents Guide to Response-to-Intervention (pdf)

Wrightslaw Tests and Measurements and Independent Educational Evaluations

Revolutionary Common Sense article used with permission from K. Snow, Disability is Natural:  Life Beyond the Label (pdf)

 

 


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