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Ask the Horizons Team: Understand Your Child’s Special Education Evaluation

Posted Aug 17 2012 11:05am

Ask the Horizons Team: Understand Your Child’s Special Education Evaluation

August 17, 2012 By Nicole Beurkens, PhD

Question:

My son has been eligible for special education as a student with autism for 3 years (since he was 6), and was eligible with an early childhood developmental delay prior to that.  He is now due (actually overdue) for his 3-year re-evaluation for special education.  When I looked at the plan the school gave me for what they were going to evaluate, they don’t have any specific evaluations listed.  They are mostly going to do observations, and when I asked them about it they told me they don’t have to do any evaluations on him since he’s still autistic and no one is questioning the eligibility.  This doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m confused about how to handle this.  Can you help me understand what should be done for his evaluation?

Thanks,
Connie in Michigan

Answer:

Hi Connie,

You bring up a very important issue and I’m glad you asked.  Schools are required to conduct a re-evaluation of special education students at least once every 3 years.  The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether the student continues to qualify for special education, and under what eligibility, as well as to determine the student’s current level of functioning in order to inform the writing of appropriate educational plans.  While I understand that no one may be questioning whether or not your son still has autism, the school team is required to conduct an evaluation that provides information about his current level of functioning so that an appropriate IEP can be written.

In Michigan the requirement is that students with ASD eligibility receive two comprehensive evaluations that look at whether or not they meet the criteria for ASD.  For all subsequent evaluations a comprehensive evaluation of the autism is not required unless there is evidence that it should be revisited.  However, even in these cases where the autism evaluation is not necessary, the team is still required to assess all relevant aspects of the student’s functioning in order to determine whether progress has been made, what areas require instruction, etc.  It sounds like your son has only had one comprehensive evaluation for ASD eligibility, in which case this current re-evaluation needs to look at all of the autism-related issues again.  This re-evaluation should include autism-specific assessment as well as all other relevant areas of assessment.

Even if a comprehensive evaluation wasn’t required to determine his ASD eligibility, more than “observation” is required.  The team should be specific about what formal and informal measures they will be using to document your son’s skill levels across all relevant areas – social, communication, academic, adaptive behavior, fine and gross motor, etc.  Having this information will allow them to determine his present level of performance, which should then lead to the writing of appropriate goals and objectives for the coming year.  My recommendation is for you to contact your child’s case manager, or the person who is coordinating the evaluation process, to discuss your concerns in detail.  Let them know that you want an evaluation that provides solid documentation about your son’s current skill levels in all relevant areas.  Hopefully they will be responsive and re-write the evaluation plan to provide a more comprehensive assessment.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out!
Nicole

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