Laura was 8 years old, her teacher, Mrs. Adams, saw that Laura was
having a lot of trouble with reading and writing. This surprised
Mrs. Adams, because Laura was very good at remembering things she
heard. She asked the school to check, or evaluate, Laura to see
if she had a disability.
parents had also been worried about Laura's problems. When the school
asked for permission to evaluate Laura, Laura's parents said yes.
evaluation took about one month. It involved many different things
and people. The evaluation group, including Laura's parents, looked
at Laura's school records and test scores. The group gave Laura
more tests and talked to her. They also talked to her teacher and
her parents. They watched how she did her work and learned more
about where and when she has problems.
the end, the evaluation showed that Laura has a learning disability.
Now the school knows why she has trouble with reading and writing.
Laura is now getting special help in school.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
country's special education law is called the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a very important law for children
with disabilities, their families, and schools. The evaluation process
described in this Basics for Parents is based on what this law requires.
If you want to know all the law's requirements, you may wish to
request a copy of the law and its regulations. Ask NICHCY how to
Purpose of Evaluation: Finding Out Why
children have trouble in school. Some, like Laura, have trouble
learning to read or write. Others have a hard time remembering new
information. Still others may have trouble behaving themselves.
Children can have all sorts of problems.
important to find out why a child is not doing well in school. The
child may have a disability. By law, schools must provide special
help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called
special education and related services.
may ask the school to evaluate your child, or the school may ask
you for permission to do an evaluation. If the school thinks your
child may have a disability and may need special education and related
services, they must evaluate your child before providing your child
with these services. This evaluation is at no cost to you. The evaluation
will tell you and the school:
your child has a disability; and
kind of special help your child needs in school.
1: Using What Is Known
group of people, including you, will evaluate your child. This group
will begin by looking at what is already known about your child.
The group will look at your child's school file and recent test
scores. You and your child's teacher may provide information to
be included in this review.
evaluation group needs enough information to decide if your child
has a disability. It also needs to know what kind of special help
your child needs. Is there enough information about your child to
answer these questions? If your child is being evaluated for the
first time, maybe not.
2: Collecting More Information
group of people, including you, involved in your child's evaluation
will tell the school what information it still needs about your
child, and the school must collect that information.
the school can conduct additional testing, school personnel must
ask you for permission. They must tell you what the evaluation of
your child will involve. This includes describing (a) the tests
they will use with your child, and (b) the other ways they will
collect information about your child. Once you give your informed
written permission, the school may evaluate your child to collect
the additional information it needs.
school will collect this information in many different ways and
from many different people, including you if you have information
you wish to share. The group involved in your child's evaluation
will include these people:
least one of your child's regular education teachers (if your
child is, or may be, participating in the regular education
least one of your child's special education teachers or service
school administrator who knows about policies for special education,
children with disabilities, the general curriculum (that is,
the curriculum used by nondisabled children), and available
as parents or guardians;
who can interpret the evaluation results and talk about what
instruction may be necessary for your child;
(invited by you or the school) with knowledge or special expertise
about your child;
child, if appropriate;
from other agencies that may be responsible for paying for or
providing transition services (if your child is 16 years or
younger, if appropriate); and
qualified professionals, as appropriate (such as a school psychologist,
occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist,
medical specialist(s), or others).
are an important part of an evaluation, but they are only a piece.
The evaluation should also include:
observations and opinions of professionals who have worked with
child's medical history, when it is relevant to his or her performance
in school; and
ideas about your child's experiences, abilities, needs, and
behavior in school and outside of school, and his or her feelings
will observe your child. They may give your child tests. They are
trying to get a picture of the "whole child." It's important
that the school evaluate your child in all areas where he or she
might have a disability. For example, they will want to know more
well your child speaks and understands language;
your child thinks and behaves;
well your child adapts to change;
your child has achieved in school;
your child's potential or aptitude (intelligence) is;
well your child functions in areas such as movement, thinking,
learning, seeing, and hearing; and
job-related and other post-school interests and abilities your
your child completely will help you and the school decide if your
child has a disability. The information will also help you and the
school plan instruction for your child.
the native language: The evaluation must be conducted in your
child's native language (for example, Spanish) or other means
of communication (for example, sign language, if your child
is deaf), unless it clearly isn't possible to do so.
discrimination: Tests must be given in a way that does not discriminate
against your child because he or she has a disability or is
from a different racial or cultural background.
evaluators: The people who test your child must know how to
give the tests they decide to use. They must give each test
according to the instructions that came with the test.
than one procedure: Evaluation results will be used to decide
if your child is a "child with a disability" and to
determine what kind of educational program your child needs.
These decisions cannot be made based on only one procedure such
as only one test.
3: Deciding if Your Child is Eligible for Special Education
next step is to decide if your child is eligible for special education
and related services. This decision will be based on the results
of your child's evaluation and the policies in your area about eligibility
for these special services.
important that your child's evaluation results be explained to you
in a way that's easy to understand. In other words, it's not enough
to talk about your child's scores on tests. What do the scores mean?
Is your child doing as well as other children his or her age? What
does your child do well? Where is your child having trouble? What
is causing the trouble?
you don't understand something in your child's evaluation results,
be sure to speak up and ask questions. This is your child. You know
your child very well. Do the results make sense, considering what
you know about your child? Share your special insights. Your knowledge
of your child is important.
on your child's evaluation results, a group of people will decide
if your child is eligible for special education and related services.
Under the IDEA, you have the right to be part of any group that
decides your child's eligibility for special education and related
services. This decision is based in part on IDEA's definition of
a "child with a disability." You should know that:
IDEA lists 13 different disability categories (listed between
the dashed lines below) under which a child may be eligible
for services. (To learn more about these disabilities, contact
NICHCY and ask for our Disability Fact Sheets.)
disability must affect the child's educational performance.
child may not be identified as having a disability just because
he or she speaks a language other than English and does not
speak or understand English well. A child may not be identified
as having a disability just because he or she has not had enough
instruction in math or reading.
Categories of Disability
health impairment (i.e., having limited strength, vitality,
or alertness that affects a child's educational performance)
or language impairment
impairment, including blindness
a parent, you have the right to receive a copy of the evaluation
report on your child. You also have the right to receive a copy
of the paperwork about your child's eligibility for special education
and related services.
your child is eligible for special education and related services
(such as speech therapy), then you and the school will meet and
talk about your child's special educational needs (see Step 4 below).
your child is not eligible for special education and related services,
the school must tell you so in writing. You must also receive information
about what to do if you disagree with this decision. If this information
is not in the materials the school gives you, ask for it. You have
the right to disagree with the eligibility decision and be heard.
Also ask how the school will help your child if he or she will not
be getting special education services.
4: Developing Your Child's Educational Program
however, your child is found eligible for special education and
related services, the next step is to write an Individualized Education
Program (IEP) for your child. This is a written document that you
and school personnel develop together. The IEP will describe your
child's educational program, including the special services your
child will receive.
That Can Help
a lot to know about disabilities, special education, and parenting
a child with a disability. Here are some people who can help you
with your questions and concerns.
offers many useful publications. Our information specialists
are also available to talk with you personally. See the top
of page 1 for all our contact information.
state's Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center serves
parents just like you. Your PTI can answer questions about special
education, help you work with the school, and put you in touch
with parent groups near your home. Call NICHCY to find out how
to get in touch with your PTI, or see our State Resource Sheet
for your state. The PTI is listed there.
special education director in your school or district can tell
you about local special education guidelines. Call the school
or your local district office, and ask to speak to the person
in charge of special education.
State Director of Special Education in your state can tell you
about state policies. This person's name is listed on NICHCY's
Summary: Four Steps in Evaluation
child is having trouble in school. Someone notices, maybe you, maybe
a teacher. You both want your child to do well in school. The first
step is to evaluate your child to find out what is causing your
child to have problems.
1: Using what's already known
group of people (which must include you) evaluating your child looks
at what information is already available about your child. Does
the group need more? If so, the school must collect it.
2: Collecting more information
school asks for your permission to evaluate your child. You give
informed written permission. The school then collects more information
about your child.
3: Deciding your child's eligibility
your child eligible for special education and related services?
Based on the evaluation results, the group of school professionals
and you, the parents, decide.
4: Developing your child's educational program
your child is eligible, you and the school will develop an educational
program to meet your child's needs.
document was reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
for consistency with the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act Amendments of 1997, Public Law 105-17, and the final implementing
regulations published March 12, 1999.
Basics for Parents is a new series of the National Information Center
for Children and Youth with Disabilities. In addition, NICHCY disseminates
other materials and can respond to individual requests for information.
For further information and assistance, or to receive a NICHCY Publications
Catalog, contact NICHCY, P. O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013. Telephone:
1-800-695-0285 (Voice/TTY) and (202) 884-8200 (Voice/TTY). Visit
our Web site (www.nichcy.org) or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
thanks our Project Officer, Dr. Peggy Cvach, at the Office of Special
Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, for her time in
reading and reviewing this manuscript.
would also like to express our deep appreciation to the individuals
at the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of
Education, who went over the draft with the finest of combs.
Director: Suzanne Ripley
Assistant Director: Donna Waghorn
with permission from
National Information Center
for Children and Youth with Disabilities
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013
(202) 884-8200 (Voice/TTY)
information is copyright free, unless otherwise indicated. Readers
are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National
Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).
Please share your ideas and feedback with our staff by writing to
of this document is made possible through Cooperative Agreement
#H326N980002 between the Academy for Educational Development and
the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department
of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect
the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention
of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement
by the U.S. Government.
Academy for Educational Development, founded in 1961, is an independent,
nonprofit service organization committed to addressing human development
needs in the United States and throughout the world. In partnership
with its clients, the Academy seeks to meet today's social, economic,
and environmental challenges through education and human resource
development; to apply state-of-the-art education, training, research,
technology, management, behavioral analysis, and social marketing
techniques to solve problems; and to improve knowledge and skills
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