Do you suspect that you have a child with a disability?

Parenting a child with a disability can be frustrating and confusing when you don’t know what is wrong.  Many parents look to teachers to help them understand why their child isn’t doing well in school, but many teachers do not have sufficient training in special education to really help.  

Children with disabilities often cannot learn in the same way that typical children do, or cannot access school facilities because of physical or mental disabilities.  They may fall behind or even fail in school.  If your child is struggling in school, and you suspect a disability, speak up and let the school know your concerns.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Did you know that schools have the responsibility to identify children with disabilities?  A federal law called Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA makes states responsible for finding children with disabilities and then educating them according to their unique needs.   This means that Ohio has the responsibility to search out children with disabilities, from birth through age 21.  Once identified, the program Help Me Grow provides services from birth through age 2.  Ages 3 through 21 are served through local school districts.

Not only does Ohio have to educate them from age 3 to until they graduate from high school or turn 21, but they have to do so in a way that makes those children ready for further education, employment, and independent living. 

What disabilities are covered?

The categories of disabilities that are covered are:

·      Cognitive disability,

·      Hearing impairment (including deafness),

·      Speech or language impairment,

·      Visual impairment,

·      Serious emotional disturbance,

·      Orthopedic impairment,

·      Autism,

·      Traumatic brain injury,

·      Other health impairment,

·      Specific learning disability,

·      Deaf- blindness or

·      Multiple disabilities.

Requesting an evaluation

If your child may have one or more of the above disabilities, you have the right to request an Evaluation from the school.  The school must respond in 30 days.  The school can do two things:

1.      Get your consent to begin evaluating your child (a form called PR-05), or

2.      Tell you why in writing (a form called PR-01) why the school doesn’t believe your child has a disability.

What if the school won’t conduct an evaluation?

At this point in the process, some school tell parents that they are going to try different interventions before evaluating the child.  This is often called response to intervention (RTI).  RTI sounds reasonable, but legally schools must try these interventions at the same time as they evaluate the child – they can’t unnecessarily delay an evaluation.

What happens at an evaluation?

An evaluation must be completed within 60 days of getting your consent to evaluate.  It must meet certain requirements. Fro example, an email telling you your child has been given one test and found not to have a disability is not an evaluation as Ohio defines it.   Some of the rules for an acceptable evaluation are:

·      An evaluation should be done on a form called PR-06 (Evaluation Team Report),

·      An evaluation team includes the parents, the child’s teacher, and many other staff from the school district.

·      The team must formally meet to discuss the results of the evaluation,

·      Parents must be given the report so that they can meaningfully participate in the meeting,

·      The school must not use one single assessment to determine if your child has a disability, but use a variety of assessments and strategies, including information from the parents, the classroom teachers, and medical professionals if necessary.

What does the evaluation team decide?

The evaluation team has to decide three things at the meeting:

1.    If the child has a disability

2.    If that disability has an adverse effect on the child’s education, and

3.    If the child needs special education and related services.

Yes to 1, 2 and 3:

If the team decides the answer is yes to all three of the above questions, your child will be identified as having a disability, and the school will have 30 days to write an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.  Your child is covered under IDEA and has the right to specialized instruction and accommodations.

Yes to 1 only:

If the team decides the answer to 1 is yes, but that there is no adverse effect and your child does not need special educational services, your child has certain rights under discrimination law, but is not eligible to receive specialized instruction.

Yes to 1 and 2 only:

If the team decides the answer to 1 and 2 is yes, but that your child does not need special educational services, a 504 is appropriate.  504s give accommodations to students. For example, a student with allergies who needs to stay away from certain foods will have a 504, a written plan outlining what the school will do to try to prevent your child from coming into contact with certain foods.

No to 1, 2, and 3:

If the team decides the answer to 1, 2 and 3 is no, then your child is not eligible for with an IEP or 504.

What if you disagree with the team’s determination? 

Parents are a part of the evaluation team, but the school district makes the ultimate decision. If you disagree with the evaluation results, you are entitled to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at pubic expense.  This is an evaluation done by a non-school related professional.  The school may not just deny your request, but must respond in one of two ways:

1.   Grant you the IEE, or

2.   Prove to a hearing officer that their decision was correct.

Questions? Call us. 614.745.2001