At a glance
Your child’s school can evaluate your child.
An evaluation looks at many different skills.
You have the right to know ahead of time what tests your child’s school will perform as part of the evaluation.
Deciding to have your child evaluated is a big step. You may have questions about the process. Here are some frequently asked questions about evaluations.
What are the benefits of getting my child evaluated?
The evaluation process can provide more information about the specific issues that are causing your child’s difficulty with learning. It’s also a way to see if your child is eligible for special education services. Having special education services can give your child extra support in the classroom, making it easier to learn the same material as the other students.
Who does the evaluation?
Evaluations are done by a team of professionals. Each member of the team has special knowledge and training in the area that’s being assessed. For example, a speech-language therapist has specialized training in language issues. A psychologist is trained in administering educational testing. The team works together to look at all of your child’s skills.
Who pays for the evaluation?
If your child is referred for special education evaluation at school, the school is required to pay for it. If the school agrees that there’s evidence of a “suspected disability,” the school district must do a comprehensive evaluation that looks at the trouble areas identified. You may also choose to have private testing done. But under most circumstances, this is not something your child’s school will pay for.
What happens during an evaluation?
The evaluation process involves more than just giving your child a test. It looks at your child’s overall performance in school. This includes observing your child in the classroom and talking with your child. It also involves looking at school and medical records and speaking with you and your child’s teachers.
What does the evaluation cover?
By law, an evaluation has to get information about all the areas of “suspected disability.” This means it has to cover all areas in which your child is thought to be having difficulty. These can include health and development, vision, hearing, motor skills, language, self-help skills, academic performance, and social-emotional health.
Does the school need my permission to evaluate my child?
The school must get your consent before evaluating your child. You’ll be given what’s called prior written notice. You’ll also get an evaluation plan telling you which tests and assessments are recommended. If you give consent, you’ll receive information about who will be doing the testing.
How long does the evaluation take?
IDEA says your child’s school must complete testing and issue an evaluation report within 60 calendar days from the day you give written permission, unless your state has established a different timeframe.
After the evaluation report is issued, IDEA allows for another 30 days for the team to meet to discuss eligibility and write an for an eligible student. There are no such deadlines for private testing.
What happens with the evaluation results?
The results of your child’s evaluation will be used to see if your child is eligible for special education services. If your child is eligible, the team will write an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to meet your child’s needs.
There are a number of things you can do if your child is found ineligible. Once your child’s evaluation is complete, it can give you a better idea of why your child is struggling in school. This information can help you figure out the best ways to support your child at home, in school and in the community.
An evaluation can give you a better idea of what’s difficult for your child.
You must give permission for your child to be evaluated.
Once you know the results of the evaluation, you can help plan ways to help your child.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.