Special Education 101

Identifying your child's special needs

When a child is suspected to have a language or learning disability, a referral to the public school special education program is usually made by the parent, school staff, or another professional.

At this time, a parent will be asked to sign a “Referral and Request for Consent to Conduct an Educational Evaluation.”

Once this document is signed, the Student Study Team (SST) will initiate the process for evaluating the child, which might include some or all of the following assessments: cognitive, language, behavior, achievement, social-emotional, motor skills, and health.

After it is agreed that an evaluation is the next step, a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) is formed to implement the assessment process. The MET determines the child’s level of educational performance and the results will indicate whether or not the child is eligible for special education services, based on state law. The assessment process should take place within 30 school days, at which point the MET is presented to your Individualized Education Plan Team (IEPT). You, as a parent or caregiver, are an essential member of this team and should be present at all IEP meetings.

Tip: Request copies of all reports prior to the actual IEP team meeting, so that you can review them and come prepared with questions. Have any outside reports from private sources available, and request that they be considered as part of the IEP process. Make sure that the testing does not discriminate on the basis of language or culture. Review the list of the testing instruments in the first section of this Handbook.

At the first IEP meeting, the team will review the MET report and make a final determination about special education certification. Once again, one or both parents need to be included in all of these meetings.

If you visit your State’s Department of Education, you should find a list of disability classifications that cover students eligible for special education services. At the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Early Intervention Services website, (specifically the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education, for example, you will find a list of disability classifications for preschool children as well as older children.