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The ABCs of IEPs: The Screening IEP

by Patrick J. Hoover, Special Education Attorney, Rockville, MD
The beginning of January brings a New Year and cold weather but this time of year also brings a new semester in school with the possibility of a slew of new IEP problems. Over the next few months, in our e-newsletter, we will feature a series of articles on the ABCs of IEPs. In this issue, the topic of discussion is the start of the IEP process: the Screening IEP.

All kids/students receiving special education services require an evaluation and a careful review of that evaluation by the school. Little is more important than the child's evaluation: who does it and what it says about your child. The Individuals with Disability Act was made into law in order to provide students with qualifying disabilities be they physical or emotional the right unfettered an complete in attending public schools in the United States with a free and appropriate public education regardless of expense. Kids who qualify to receive SPED services under the IDEA are each afforded their own individualized education plan (IEP) furnished through the school's special education services department and implemented by special education teachers, therapists, counselors, school psychologists, pathologists and many more in addition to the general education teacher.

The bottom line is quite simply that without the protection of the IDEA countless children in this country would not be provided a meaningful or even effective education.

In the process of having a student considered for special education services the student's parent/guardian should know that before their child can be provided special education services there must first be a formal evaluation. In the case of kids with a chronic and long standing disability, there is typically an existing body of documentation already in place before the child reaches school age. Often these records will stand in place of the otherwise required, initial/screening evaluation. However, for all other kids not previously identified with a disability (and even for many of the kids with pre existing disability), the public school will insist on a formal evaluation before providing an IEP and special education services for your child. Therefore, the evaluation of the student's disability, whether a new problem is under investigation or the disability is well known to the child's family, is of paramount importance.

The IDEA requires that a child suspected of laboring under a disability which adversely impacts education, whether social, behavioral, academic or emotional, is entitled to such evaluation at no cost. As a direct result of this provision in the law, all public schools employ a variety of special education experts who conduct student evaluations.

However, most special education attorneys will advise a family that it is generally far preferable to hire a private provider, typically an educational psychologist, for the job of the evaluation. There are any number of reasons for this universal advice, running from accessibility considerations through to questions of competence and the evaluator's advocacy skills. The point is that if your child is in need of an evaluation, one you expect to provide to the school in hopes of gaining its help and assistance in the education of your child, be sure and very carefully consider who is doing the evaluation and do not simply accept the advice of the school system which will offer to provide to do the evaluation of your child (assuming that the school agrees that you child should indeed be evaluated for a suspected disability).

There is simply no more important step you'll take when deciding how best to deal with your child's education than the evaluation of your youngster and the question of who will conduct that evaluation. Look for part two in nexth month's HooverLaw, LLC e-newsletter. Thanks for reading!

Patrick Hoover is a special education attorney in Rockville, MD. He advocates for an appropriate education for children with special needs. See his site at: See her site at: or contact him by phone at:(301) 424-5777.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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