What are your rights if your child is struggling in school?

If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability, you have the right to ask the school to evaluate your child. Under federal law, the school must complete all requested evaluations within 60 days of the parents providing consent to evaluate. (In Massachusetts, that number is 45 days.) Assessments shall include all areas related to the suspected disability. In addition to the general intelligence and academic assessments, these areas can include (but are not limited to) social emotional status, motor abilities, health, vision, hearing, and assistive technology.

Once the assessments are complete, the school must hold a “Team Meeting” to review the data. This team consists of the parents, at least one regular education teacher, at least one special education teacher, a representative of the school district who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the child’s needs, someone who can properly interpret the evaluation data, other individuals as requested by the parents or district who have special knowledge of the child, and, if appropriate, the child. If the team determines that the child requires special education services, it will propose an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Another option for parents is to have a private evaluation done, paid for by the parents. An especially useful assessment is the neuropsychological evaluation. This is a comprehensive evaluation measuring the student’s learning profile, processing speed, working memory, IQ, attention, problem solving, spatial awareness, and language, among other areas. (Some insurance companies will pay for this evaluation.) If the parents choose this option, they can choose whether they wish to share the results with the school. If they choose to share the results, the school must hold a Team Meeting within 10 days of receiving the results.

You are your child’s best advocate. If you suspect he or she may have an academic or social/emotional deficit affecting his or her ability to make effective progress, then you have the right to an evaluation each year.