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  • Writer's pictureHolly Griffith Terrell

"My child is struggling in school – what can I do?": Getting the Special Education Ball Rolling 

It’s getting close to the end of the school year. Many students progressed through the year with relative ease. But many are struggling and falling behind. So, what can you do when you notice that your child is having more trouble in school than what you feel is typical? Following is a very general outline of the special education eligibility process and how you can get started.


1. Tell the school. Notify the school of your concerns. Be specific. Put it in writing.


The easiest thing to do is to send an email to your school district’s special education director –their contact information should be on the school district’s website. Consider copying the school principal(s), your child’s teacher(s), and any other appropriate school staff and administrators.


The bottom line is that you want to trigger the school's “child find” obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities. All that is needed to trigger this obligation is a “suspicion” that a child has a disability that adversely affects their educational performance. This suspicion can be triggered by your email to the school. Keep in mind that educational performance is not limited to academic performance – it includes speech deficits, attention issues, struggles with social skills, etc


2. Sign consent forms.


Thereafter, the school should schedule an evaluation planning meeting [or at least give you a call] to determine the areas in which your child needs to be evaluated. The school will provide you with forms to provide your consent for the evaluation – referred to as a Full Individual Evaluation or FIE. The school generally has 45 school days to perform the FIE after you sign the consent forms, so be sure to ask for these forms as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delay. For example, if you send your initial email to the school on March 15, but you don't sign the consent forms until May 30, because only school days are included in the 45-day calculation and it's almost summer, your child’s evaluated may not be completed until the beginning of the following school year.


3. Attend IEP/ARD committee meeting.


After the FIE is completed, you will attend a meeting with the school to discuss the FIE and determine whether your child is eligible for special education services. This meeting is called an IEP meeting, but in Texas, we generally refer to these as Admission, Review, & Dismissal or ARD committee meetings. If the ARD committee (which includes you as the parent) determines your child is eligible for special education services, the committee will develop an Individualized Education Program or IEP for your child. Thereafter, there the ARD committee should meet at least annually to consider IEP modifications and related items.

4. IEP Implementation.

After a 5-day implementation waiting period – which can be waived by the student’s parent at the ARD committee meeting – the school should begin implementing the IEP.



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