Parent Guide to Getting a Special Education Evaluation for Your Child

Special Education Evaluations
Special Education Evaluation

Why a special education evaluation?

Your school district is responsible for conducting a special education evaluation for any student who is potentially eligible for special education services. 

Under federal law, a child with disability includes any student who has been evaluated and determined as having

  • an intellectual disability,
  • a hearing impairment,
  • a speech or language impairment,
  • a visual impairment,
  • a serious emotional disturbance,
  • an orthopedic impairment,
  • autism,
  • traumatic brain injury,
  • an other health impairment,
  • a specific learning disability,
  • deaf-blindness,
  • or multiple disabilities;

and requires special education and related services as a result of the disability.

If there is a reason to suspect that your child has a disability and needs special education services, your school district must evaluate your child. 

 

When should you ask for a special education evaluation?

→ You may ask your school district for a special education evaluation at any time.

The school’s duty to evaluate is an affirmative one and does not require a parental request.

However, you have a right to initiate the special education evaluation process for your child whenever you believe it appropriate.

In fact, each school year, your school must provide you with written notice of the options and details surrounding special education services for your child.

This notice must inform you that you are entitled to request a special education evaluation for your child at any time.  

Your school district may not reject or delay consideration of your request for an initial special education evaluation because your child has not participated in or is currently participating in RtI (Response to Intervention Strategies).

The request for a special education evaluation, however, does not need to come from you.  School personnel, parents or legal guardians, or any another person involved in the education or care of your child may request an evaluation.

 

How do you request a special education evaluation?

→ Your request for a special education evaluation should be in writing.

Submitting your written request for a special education evaluation will legally obligate your school district to respond.

There are many sample evaluation requests online to use as a starting point, but be sure that your request meets all requirements and is specific to your child. 

The ARC of Texas and Disability Rights Texas have provided one sample request in the 2018 IDEA Manual.

 

Sample Request for Special Education Evaluation
IDEA Manual 2018: Sample Letter Requesting an Initial Special Education Evaluation

You are asking that the school district conduct a full individual and initial evaluation of your child in all areas of suspected disability. 

→  In your request, ask that your school evaluate your child for special education services.

→  Address your written request to your school’s principal and your district’s special education director.

While you can submit your special education evaluation request to the school personnel familiar with your child, you should also address the request to your school district’s director of special education or a district administrative employee.

 

When does the school need to respond to an evaluation request?

→  Your school district has 15 school days to respond to your request, in writing.

When the school district receives your written request, they have 15 school days to provide you with a written response.

Under Texas law, a “school day” does not include any day after the last instructional day of the spring semester  and before the first instructional day of the subsequent fall semester.

 

How should the school respond to a special education evaluation request?

→  The school must respond to your request for an evaluation in writing. 

→  There are only two potential responses from the school: agree to evaluate or refuse to evaluate. 

The school can answer your request in one of two ways.

Agree to evaluate:

If the school agrees to evaluate your child, the district must provide you with prior written notice of the district’s proposal to conduct a special education evaluation; a copy of the procedural safeguards notice; and an opportunity to give written consent for the evaluation.

Refuse to evaluate:

However, if the school decides not to evaluate your child, the district must provide you with prior written notice of the district’s refusal to conduct a special education evaluation, and a copy of the procedural safeguards notice.

 

 

 

What happens if the school agrees to evaluate? 

→  The school has 45 school days to conduct the evaluation after receiving your signed consent.

Within 45 school days of receiving your written consent for the evaluation, the school district must complete  written special education evaluation report (or a full individual and initial evaluation) of your child. 

That timeline can be extended if your child is absent from school. Three or more absences during the 45 school day evaluation period will extend the deadline. 

Additionally, the timeline is also adjusted if the school receives your consent within fewer than 45 school days before the last instructional day of the school year.

Importantly, consent to the special education evaluation does not give the school permission to provide any potential special education services. You can provide that permission at a later time.

 

What happens when the special education evaluation is complete? 

→  Once the evaluation is complete, the school has 30 calendar days to hold an ARD meeting, review the evaluation results, determine eligibility and develop an IEP.

Within 30 calendar days from the completion date of your child’s initial special education evaluation, the IEP team (ARD committee) must hold a meeting to determine your child’s eligibility.

If your child qualifies for special education services, the ARD committee must also develop an individual education plan.

In many cases the ARD timeline can be extended. For example, if the 30 calendar days falls during the summer when school is not in session, theARD committee has until the first instructional day of the fall semester to finalize decisions concerning your child’s initial eligibility. 

 

What if a parent is not satisfied with the evaluation process?

→ If the school decides not to evaluate, you may challenge the school’s decision. 

→ You can ask for a second opinion if you are unhappy with the school district’s evaluation. 

If your school district decides not to evaluate your child because they do not suspect a disability, you may challenge the school’s decision by requesting a due process hearing.

 

 


This material is specific to Texas and intended for general informational purposes only. This information will not apply to all matters and should not be construed as legal advice. Please contact your attorney for advice specific to your situation.