Getting an evaluation is the first step in getting an IEP (an Individual Education Plan). You can not get an IEP without an evaluation. While you don’t need an evaluation to get a 504 Plan, you do need one to be eligible for an IEP. When I say an evaluation, I mean a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation administered by a psychologist. This type of evaluation has to be “full and individualized” and has to rely on a variety of assessments. If it’s done well, it will give you a host of good information about your child and why they’re having trouble in school. A parent can get an evaluation by a public school psychologist at no cost or by a private psychologist which is sometimes very costly. Obviously, it would be better to get it for free from a school psychologist. Here’s how.
A parent is entitled by federal law (the IDEA) to get a comprehensive evaluation in all areas of suspected disability. That means if your child is doing poorly in any subject or socially, emotionally or behaviorally, you can ask the school district for an evaluation. Parents often have a hunch if there’s something wrong with their child. The teacher can also ask for one, if she thinks your child may be disabled, but I recommend doing it yourself. Ask the director of special education for your district or region for a comprehensive educational evaluation, and do it in writing. It’s very important to do it in writing (and keep a copy of it) because your request triggers the school district to do things within a certain amount of time. You can either email your request to the director of special ed or hand-deliver it.
After you write your request for a comprehensive psycho-ed evaluation, in California the district has 15 days to present you with an assessment plan. After you sign your consent to it, the school psychologist has 60 days to finish it and schedule a meeting to discuss whether your child is eligible for an IEP. Say something like:
“I am formally requesting that you comprehensively evaluate my child, _____ [name], who is in the _____ grade at ______ [name of school]. Their School ID is ______. I know that as of the date of this letter/email you have 15 days to present me with an evaluation plan and 60 days to finish evaluating them and to schedule a meeting. Thank you.”