An initial evaluation is conducted when a child is first suspected of having an impairment and a need for special education. The initial evaluation process is started when a written referral for a special education evaluation is made. Best practice and research suggests that a request for an evaluation be made only after appropriate interventions have been tried and documented over time. An initial evaluation may also be initiated when a student is suspected of having an impairment upon referral for expulsion from school.
The IEP process is a confidential process. Documents developed in this process are confidential and will only be available to the staff who work with your child.
If your child is referred for a special education evaluation, the first step in the initial evaluation process is to gather existing data relative to your child’s history, general development, academic progress and social/emotional functioning.
As an equal partner in this IEP process, you will be encouraged to share information about your:
- child’s strengths,
- child as a whole (e.g., school/life experiences, interests, achievements, personality, learning style),
- child’s developmental history (e.g., social, emotional, academic and physical), and
You will also be encouraged to bring relevant records such as:
- previous school records (e.g., report cards, progress reports, test results, previous evaluation(s)),
- reports/information from private or outside evaluations (e.g., medical, psychological),
- relevant court documents, and
- medication information (e.g., type, dosage, and frequency).
After the existing data has been reviewed and discussed at an IEP meeting that you have participated in, the information from the existing reports and the discussion will be summarized on the IEP evaluation forms.
Based on the review of the existing data, the IEP team will then determine one of the following:
- there is no need to continue the IEP evaluation or
- there is no need for further assessment as the existing data is sufficient to establish an impairment and a need for special education or
- there is a need for additional assessments to determine if your child has an impairment and a need for special education.
If additional assessments are needed, you will be asked to provide your written consent to allow staff to administer individual assessments.
When the assessments are completed, the IEP team will meet again to discuss the results of those assessments. At this meeting, the IEP team will decide whether your child:
- has an impairment and a need for special education or
- has an impairment but does not need special education, or
- does not have an impairment and does not need special education.
If the IEP team determines that your child does have an impairment and a need for special education, a meeting is set to develop an individualized education program (IEP). At that meeting, an IEP will be developed and placement in special education will be offered. A parent/guardian signature is required for the initial placement of your child in special education.
At a minimum, your child’s IEP is reviewed and revised on an annual basis. This is done to evaluate your child’s progress (academic, social emotional and/or behavioral) and to evaluate the IEP program. To prepare for your child’s IEP meeting, consider the following:
- Write down your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for your child (short-term and long-term).
- Prioritize 3 to 4 areas that will assist your child in realizing their goals for the future.
- Review the progress your child has made throughout the year. To do this you may wish to look at his/her report cards, test results, progress reports, IEP documents, or anything else outside of the school domain that you believe is relevant.
- You may bring whomever you wish to an IEP meeting. If there is an individual who can assist you through the IEP process, consider inviting him/her (e.g., family member, friend, advocate).
- Be prepared to communicate your child’s areas of strength or interests outside of school. These could be sports, hobbies, activities, interactions with family or friends, jobs/responsibilities, etc.
- Be prepared to ask questions if you are unsure of something or don’t understand the jargon (e.g., LRE, FAPE). A glossary of key terms can be found here.