Stuff You Should Know About Special Education Law: The Road to Services

Stuff You Should Know About Special Education Law: The Road to Services

There are quite a few hoops that you will have to jump through in order to get your child services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Most school districts are very accomodating and will help you with the process. Others are hell-bent on saving money and try to deny anything that will cost them extra at every possible turn. In my opinion, the worst districts are the ones that seem like they are going to be accomodating but never follow through with the actual IEP. Knowing how the process works is a key step in knowing whether you're getting where you need to be. What follows is a roadmap of the process.

Step One: Requesting a Case Study Evaluation/Full Individual Evaluation

The first step in the process is to request a Case Study Evaluation (CSE). Usually it is the parent or school that makes the request. The request needs to be in writing and should be signed by the person making the request. After the school receives the request, it has fourteen (14) days to either grant or deny the request.

If the school grants the request, it convenes a "domain meeting" to find out what areas ("domains") of the student need to be testing. Once the the parent (or educational rights holder) agrees to the testing, the school has 60 days to complete the testing, hold an eligibility meeting, and develop the IEP if needed.

If the school denies the request, they have to provide a notice saying:

  • What action they refused;
  • Why they refused to conduct an examination;
  • What records they used to make that determination;
  • What legal rights the parents have and how to protect those rights;
  • Where the parent can go to get help understanding the notice;
  • What other options the team considered and why those options were rejected; and
  • What other relevant factors were involved in their refusal.

Step Two: The Domain Meeting

This is a fairly straightforward meeting where the parents and the school's team sit down and discuss what areas ("domains") they will test. Some of the possible areas for testing incude:

  • Academic testing;
  • Emotional screening;
  • Speech and language;
  • Cognitive testing;
  • Occupational therapy;
  • Physical therapy; and
  • Audiology (hearing).

The next step after the domain meeting is the Eligibility Conference.

Step Three: The Eligibility Conference

At the Eligibility Conference, the "Team" will meet to determine whether your child meets state or federal critieria as a child with a disability. If the Team decides your child meets the criteria, your child is eligible for special education services.

Per IDEA 2004, the "Team" is made up of:

  • The child's parent(s);
  • A general education teacher;
  • A special education teacher or provider;
  • An individual who can interpret the evaluation results;
  • Someone from the public agency that can make commitments to provide services and can ensure that an IEP will be implemented;
  • A bilingual teacher (or specialist) if needed;
  • A behavioral specialist (if behavior is an issue);
  • Other individuals who might have knowledge or expertise regarding the child; and
  • The child (where appropriate).

There is a laundry list of categories that IDEA 2004 sets out that can lead to a child being considered disabled. I will get into those in a later post.

If the parent disagrees with the result of the child's testing, they can request an Independent Educational Evaluation. The school district must either grant the request or file for a due process hearing against the parent.

Step Four: The IEP Meetings

Finally, after all of the above is said and done, if the school district and parent come to the conclusion that the child is eligible for services, the Team will put together the Individual Education Program (IEP) for the child that describes the services that they will provide and provides specific baselines and goals for the child. The initial IEP meeting will discuss program implementation. Additional IEP meeings will typically follow annually, although the parent or school can request an earlier meeting if either has concerns about the child.

And you're there

That's it. That's the process to get from a potential issue for your child to an IEP in Illinois. There are still tons of topics to talk about, and I'll try to do that in the future. Expect later posts to deal with the IEP itself, Section 504, discipline of a special education child, and more. We'll get there, slowly but surely.