Do you suspect that your child may have a disability such as Autism? Are you in the process of setting up a school evaluation for your child? This article is for you and will discuss 10 parenting tips that will help you before your child is evaluated.
1. Do not depend on special educators to diagnose your child's autism, or other types of disabilities. Many school administrators put pressure on school psychologists, not to find children eligible for special education under the category of autism (this could be related to the cost of the services, or other issues not known by the parents), as well as other types of disabilities such as specific learning disabilities (SLD).
2. If you suspect a disability of any type, you need to take your child for an independent educational evaluation (IEE), with a qualified evaluator, not in your school district. I would recommend a clinical psychologist or a neuropsychologist. By doing this you are increasing your child's chances of receiving an appropriate evaluation, and in determining specifically what services your child needs to receive an appropriate education!
3. Ask other parents of children with disabilities if they know any evaluators that are parent and child friendly, complete comprehensive testing, write whether a child is eligible for special education, and writes very specific recommendations for services that a child needs!
4. If you do decide to allow your district to evaluate your child, you do not have to "consent" to all testing that the school wants to do. Some school personnel will recommend testing in areas of strength and not of weakness; if you believe this is happening to your child, tell them that you will not "consent" to testing in that specific area.
5. If the school wants to do an autism rating scale, I would recommend the (CARS), which is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale. This scale is easy to fill out and very accurate. Be careful that you tell the school psychologist that you will be filling out the scale and not school personnel. I have seen many times where the rating scale states the child does not have Autism, and I find out that the scale was filled out by special educators-do not agree to this!
6. Rating scales are often used in other areas also such as adaptive behavior; again make sure that you are filling out the scale, and not school personnel (or the results are probably not accurate).
7. When you sign the consent form make sure that you are asking for all testing reports at least ten days before the eligibility meeting; or you will be postponing the meeting.
8. If you took your child for an IEE, you will send the report to the school before the eligibility meeting (also make arrangements for the independent evaluator to participate in the meeting, but this can be done by telephone)
9. Try to see if you can find an experienced advocate or an experienced parent to attend the meeting with you. The eligibility meeting can be overwhelming, it will benefit you if you have someone who understands the special education process go with you.
10. During the eligibility meeting ask lots of questions, especially about terminology that you do not understand. If your child is found ineligible (despite the school's testing or the IEE), make sure that your disagreement with this decision is written into the paperwork. Your options are to "obtain" an IEE at public expense if the school evaluated your child (and you disagree with the evaluation), or if you have an IEE that the school refuses to "consider" you may have to file for a due process hearing.
The eligibility process can be very trying; if you keep in mind these tips and bring an experienced person with you to the meeting your child's chances improve of being found eligible for special education! Good luck!