Your Guide to the Special Education Identification Process

Step 1: Child is identified as possibly needing special education and related services.

When Laura was 8 years old, her teacher, Mrs. Adams, saw that Laura was having a lot of trouble with reading and writing. This surprised Mrs. Adams, because Laura was very good at remembering things she heard. She asked the school to check, or evaluate, Laura to see if she had a disability.

The above scenario probably sounds familiar to you, as it’s one of the most typical ways a child is identified for special services. However, there are two general ways your child can be identified:

“Child Find.” The state must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services. To do so, states conduct “Child Find” activities. Your child may be identified by “Child Find,” and you may be asked if the “Child Find” system can evaluate your child. You can also call the “Child Find” system and ask that your child be evaluated. This evaluation can be done before your child reaches kindergarten age.

Or —

Referral or request for evaluation. A school professional may ask that your child be evaluated to see if he or she has a disability. You may also contact the child’s teacher or other school professional to ask that your child be evaluated. This request may be verbal or in writing. Your consent is needed before your child may be evaluated. Evaluation needs to be completed within a reasonable time after you give consent.

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