In this summary, I will break down the general steps to getting the proper match up of services (through a Section 504 Plan or IEP) to a struggling student's disability (disabilities) so that the student can begin to experience academic success.
The RTI Process
The essential first step to getting a student they help they need is the RTI process. RTI stands for Request to Intervene. Sometimes the student's teacher or someone in the school will begin the RTI process and sometimes it is the parent. We think of the RTI process as sending up a flare to the student's team to let them all know something is wrong and needs a closer look. If your child is struggling in school, you need to find out why.
If you are concerned about your child's learning style, academic progress, social skills or even their behavior, a comprehensive assessment will both identify the nature of the problem as well as provide guidance for developing a plan.
If your child has a disability, as a parent, you will need objective information about his strengths, weaknesses, and his specific needs before decisions can be made about an appropriate educational program - possibly an Individual Education Plan (IEP), Section 504 Plan, etc.
Figuring out why a student is struggling in school is a bit like solving a case. You and/or the school may use a variety of testing and assessments to figure out what is at the root of the child's problem.
School Testing - What do they test?
Following is a basic list of the kinds of testing available for your student and a summary of what this testing may indicate.
Schools evaluate to:
o Identify children who are experiencing delays or learning problems
o Determine if a child has a disability and is eligible for special education services
o Identify a child's needs for special education services
o Gather functional, developmental and academic information about a child
o Gather data about a child's present levels of academic achievement, functional performance and educational needs that will be used to develop an appropriate Individualized Education Program (IEP)
o Provide information to help teachers and related service personnel provide appropriate instruction, services and accommodations
o Monitor a child's progress in a special education program
How will I know if the school did a thorough job testing my child?
What I have found in almost every case is that the school testing has been inadequate and has missed identifying the complete problem. And unless the problem can be articulated properly, there will never be an adequate solution.
How Long Does the School Have to Complete Testing?
Once a proper release is signed by the parent authorizing testing, the school has 60 calendar days to complete the testing process. For this reason, whenever possible, we recommend that parents have their own independent testing completed at the same time. Most of the qualified testing professionals accept insurance. We can guide you to these professionals and can often assist in setting testing appointments up quickly.
Once the testing is completed, how long before my child gets the services they need?
The answer to this question is -- it depends.
Sometimes schools are good about providing services even before testing is completed. More often than not, this is not the case.
Usually there is another meeting scheduled to go over the results of the school's testing and then a 504 Plan or an IEP is formally put into place. This can take weeks, depending on schedules.
Often by the time an appropriate plan in put into place, the student has already fallen behind and the services may not be enough. Other times, the schools did not do the appropriate testing or the testing fell short of pointing to a thorough diagnosis. So naturally, the services are not going to fully address the problem.
This is often when parents call our office and when we get involved and where one of our targeted programs will fully address the problem.
Additional resources provided by the author
For comprehensive information about tests, how tests measure skills and what the scores mean, you will find many of your answers in Wrightslaw: All about Tests and Assessments. ISBN: 978-1-892320-23-0.
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