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Understanding the Special Education Referral Process

Last updated on: November 16, 2020

When you suspect that your child may have special needs, you want immediate solutions. However, it takes time to navigate the special education system, determine what type of support your child needs, and ensure that they receive that support in every learning environment.

Identifying Your Child’s Needs

The first step is recognizing that your child may need additional assistance in their learning environment. You may be the first to notice this; perhaps your child’s grades are slipping, they’re becoming easily frustrated with school tasks, or their love of school has faded. It’s also common for the child’s teacher to be the first to identify the child’s needs. At this point, they should call a meeting with the parents to discuss their observations and come up with solutions.

Response to Intervention

Before educators jump straight to special education solutions, they work with the parents to implement other strategies in the classroom. This process may involve the help of the school administrators, other teachers, the school guidance counselor, and the school nurse. RTI, or “response to intervention,” involves several levels of intervention and careful monitoring of the child’s performance. The goal of RTI is to help the child succeed outside the special education program.

Referral and Evaluation

If your child continues to struggle after implementing interventions, the team sets up an evaluation. Your child is assessed by several professionals, including their classroom teacher, a psychometrist or school psychologist, healthcare providers, special educators, and service providers.

Determining Eligibility

After the assessments are complete, the care team will decide whether or not the child needs special education services to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education, often abbreviated to FAPE. If the team decides that the child has a disability and needs special education services, you move onto the next step: establishing an IEP team and drawing up the IEP contract.

IEP Creation and Implementation

For each child that needs an Individualized Education Plan, there is a team comprised of educators, administrators, specialists, and parents or care providers. During the IEP meeting, everyone works together to create a student profile, specify the child’s current level of performance, write measurable annual goals, and come up with objectives and teaching activities that help the child reach their goals. This is a contract, so everyone involved in your child’s education must follow the guidelines listed in the IEP.

Annual Evaluation

As a parent, you can request a meeting at any point during the year to discuss issues with the IEP or suggest changes. If no additional meetings are necessary, the team meets once per year for as long as the child is in the special education program. At each meeting, the team determines if the child needs further evaluation, if they have met their goals, and which goals are appropriate for the coming calendar year.

As a parent, you want the best for your child. If you’re struggling to get your child the services they need or the school is not following their IEP, contacting an attorney is the next step. Reach out to the team at The Matus Law Group by calling 732-281-0060.

Christine Matus

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Christine Matus

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