If your child with special needs has become old enough to attend school, you will most likely be seeking special education services from the school system. It might be that you are now becoming aware your child has a problem in school, and want to have them evaluated for a learning disability. No matter the reason, a school evaluation can help identify areas that your child is struggling in and provide a treatment plan to help them overcome these learning obstacles.
Either you or the school can request for an evaluation to take place, and in most schools a child cannot receive special education services until an evaluation has been performed. If your child is in preschool or another early education program, you can contact your local school system’s Board of Education for more information on how to request early screening and intervention.
During a school evaluation, there is no one single test that will be used to prove whether or not your child has a learning disability to be deemed eligible for special education services. There are a number of areas that will be tested, and several trained professionals will weigh in on your child’s function and assessment. The might include medical professionals, psychologists, physical or occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists or the school’s own special education teachers and assistants; most often, it will be a combination of these specialists who assess and diagnose your child for a correct course of treatment.
There are a several requirements for a school evaluation:
• Tests must not discriminate against a child in any manner
• They must be given in the child’s natural language
• All tests must measure a disability and not their English speaking ability
Areas that will be tested might include:
• Academic – If your child is struggling to grasp certain concepts during the normal course of the day, a learning disability could be at fault. Testing will be performed in a variety of areas that include reading, comprehension and math.
• Developmental – These delays might only become apparent after a child begins school. Testing will focus on the standards for children their age, and be compared to their own achievements and results.
• Functional – It might simply be that your child has trouble functioning in some areas, and might require specialized assistance in order to overcome the obstacles.
There is no right or wrong for a child to perform on these tests – it’s simply a manner of finding their strengths and weaknesses and working with their unique abilities or limitations.
Types of Assessments
Different types of assessments that can be used in evaluating your child are:
• Norm-referenced tests – These are standardized test that compare your child’s individual test results to other children in their peer group, which helps to see where your child with special needs might need help the most.
• Individual tests – Just like it sounds, this type of test is given to test your child’s strengths and weaknesses in age-appropriate categories.
• Functional assessments – This is used to help determine how children function in home, school and the community at large. It will address not only their educational skills such as reading and math, but also determine whether or not they possess the basic self-skills to learn without assistance.
• Behavioral assessments – To determine the best course of treatment for a child with behavioral issues, this type of evaluation will be performed. It will be used to assess the type of behavior that the child is exhibiting, what the outcome of the behavior was, and how to correct the behavior for future instances.
• Curriculum-based assessments – This is a test developed by school officials to assess where your child stands on learning the concepts that are being taught for their appropriate grade level.
• Criterion-referenced tests – This test is designed to assess what skills or concepts a child has already mastered, and compares it to areas that need specialized attention and assistance.
After the school evaluation has been successfully completed, the results are then analyzed by a group of professionals to determine a treatment plan with clear, identifiable goals. A child’s determination of eligibility will be judged by whether or not it falls under the guidelines of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. You will be provided with a copy of the report, as well as information on how the determination was reached.
The Next Step
If the assessment determines that your child with special needs requires special education services, the next step is to meet with school officials to develop an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. The goal of an IEP is to determine what goals should be set for accomplishment, as well as definable steps on how to reach those goals. If you have any questions about the results of the school evaluation, ask to have them clarified by a professional that assessed your child. This will help you make an informed decision regarding the next phase of your child’s education, and an IEP will never be put into action unless you agree by written consent.
As a parent, if you do not agree with the findings of the school evaluation, you have the right to obtain an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE) from a trained professional not affiliated with your child’s school. The results from this assessment can help you either better understand the school’s evaluation or challenge their findings.
Parenting a child with special needs can be difficult at times, but is also full of a lot of love and joy. Children with special needs simply see the world on different terms, which is why it’s crucial for us to teach in a way they can easily understand. Special Education Resource offers custom lesson plans tailored to your child with special needs, and provides one-on-one tutoring and instruction to help your child learn their course work in a way that works best for them. There is no universal way in which to teach children so they all understand; it’s more about working with what they can do, and improving results based on their accomplishments. Working together, we can all make a difference in your child’s life.