By Annie Stuart
If your child doesn’t qualify for early intervention services, it’s not the end of the road. Learn steps you can take to advocate for your child.
When the evaluation team meets with you, they provide you with a description of the evaluation. It should include information about the specific test and methods used, your child’s responses and what the scores mean. You can give your opinion about whether or not the evaluation showed your child’s strengths and difficulties, or if you think more information is needed.
The evaluation needs to be conducted in the language in which your child is most proficient and sensitive to your family’s culture. The same goes for the evaluation summary: You must receive it in your native language or in a way you’re comfortable communicating. If you prefer, an interpreter can translate it for you. And remember that one test alone can’t decide your child’s eligibility. Most states require that children’s cognitive, physical and communication skills be evaluated.
If there’s something you don’t understand about the evaluation, ask questions. If that’s hard for you to do, remind yourself that it’s for your child. It’s the job of the evaluation team to help you understand exactly what the evaluation means. Let the team know right away if you disagree with the results of the evaluation. You can request another evaluation, including an independent one not done by the school district.
Nobody knows your child better than you. If you disagree with results of the evaluation, you can challenge the decision by making a written request for mediation or an impartial or due process hearing. The service coordinator can help you with this. Learn about what to expect at a
mediation session or due process hearing. And remember to keep notes of all conversations and copies of any letters you send.
You can ask your service coordinator to assist you. She can connect you with supports and services in your own community. Ask about parent support and advocacy groups in your neighborhood. You can also connect with parents like you in our online community.
There are things you can do at home to help promote your child’s development and get him ready for school. Here’s one example for a child whose language skills are delayed: When you take your child to the park, encourage him to touch and feel the plants or trees. Describe what he’s seeing or doing, even if he doesn’t respond. This can help promote curiosity, as well as social skills and pre-reading.
Is your child showing signs of developmental delays? If so, you can try strategies at home and get outside help, including early intervention services. Here are some tips to try.
Your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is the written game plan for her services. By thinking ahead and bringing notes to the meeting, you’ll be better able to help shape the IFSP.
Whitney Hollins is a special education teacher and adjunct instructor at Hunter College.
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