I often hear from parents, I have just gotten a medical diagnosis for my child and have set up my first IEP meeting to qualify them to receive services. That medical diagnosis could be ADHD, a learning disorder, a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, pervasive developmental disorder or a whole host of others. These are typically the same parents that are blown away when the School District tells them they don’t qualify. Why is this, because it’s not enough to be a child with a disability you also need to have trouble accessing the curriculum. IDEA says the child with a disability only qualifies if they meet one of the disability categories and who by reason thereof, NEEDS special education and related services.
Since, there are only 13 disability categories in IDEA it is not always easy to figure out which category to qualify a child. This is also what gives the School District wiggle room to turn down a child who is struggling and needs help. ADHD, for example, is not one of the disability categories but it has become common place to categorize children with ADHD under Other Health Impairments. Other Health Impairments has become a catch all for children with medical diagnoses that don’t meet the definition of any of the other 12 disability categories.
In order to qualify for special education services under an IEP it is important for parents to understand:
- The medical diagnosis for their child;
- The 13 disability categories in IDEA and which one/s their child might be eligible under; and
- How their child is not accessing the curriculum.
There are many roadblocks on the way to a successful IEP but none of that matters if you can’t get your child qualified. There is no one method to determine whether a child is accessing the curriculum but the most common methods are:
- Report card grades;
- Assessments in the suspected areas of disability; and
- Statewide achievement tests typically given at the end of each school year.
Most schools try to limit testing to academics but social/emotional issues are also part of the school curriculum and should be part of the testing process to qualify a child for an IEP. When a child with a disability truly does not qualify for an IEP they should qualify for a 504. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a Civil Rights law which allows children to receive accommodations in areas such as, accessing buildings in school, preferential seating in class, or modifying test taking procedures if necessary.
When a parent understands what is needed to qualify a child for an IEP it makes it much harder for the School District to say no. I always recommend the first things parents familiarize themselves with is the qualification process. Get the child qualified for an IEP then the parents can start learning all of the nuances of proper services and writing goals. Once your child is qualified, if you determine the services or goals aren’t working you can always call for another IEP meeting but this can’t happen if you don’t first get them qualified.
Originally Published on July 8, 2011