My Child is Struggling, What Do I Do?
August 31, 2022
Starting the IEP Process
We want you to know that EKCO is here to help… EVERY step of the way! The IEP process is confusing and we have an expert on staff who has walked it herself! Our Scholarships and Opportunities Coordinator, Lucia Frohling, is a Master IEP Coach®. She’s here to help you every step of the way in getting what you need for your child. She has been in your shoes with two of her three children and completely understands.
Sometimes parents mistakenly believe that teachers are the people who should request an IEP evaluation, they are the professionals after all. However, a teacher might be able to complete the process for a single child in a classroom of 25. In addition, a teacher's request for an educational evaluation has many more layers and obstacles. A parent requesting an evaluation will expedite the process exponentially.
Did you know that the school district you reside in is responsible for evaluating your child and providing services, regardless of whether they attend a school in the district or a private school?
Where do you start? The process begins when you:
Email the Director of Student Services (Special Education) for the school district in which you reside asking for a FULL educational evaluation under Child Find (which is a federal requirement). You should be able to locate their email address on the school district's administration page. If it's not listed, you'll need to contact the district office to ask for their email address. You can download a draft evaluation request letter if you'd like to use it as a starting point. Need an example? We’ve got you covered.
- EKCO recommends including any concerns you have, observations you have made, and/or observations about those concerns from your pediatrician, friend, babysitter, Sunday School teacher, etc. The individuals you have weigh-in can explain what they're seeing and "back you up" so to speak. A letter from a current or past teacher would be great to include. Please feel free to use our teacher input form template! It may also be a good idea to include a timeline regarding your child’s struggles and the efforts that have been made to help them. For example, if your child struggles with writing show samples of their writing at each grade which will support your argument that your child's skill level is not improving as it should be. This ensures that everyone at the IEP table has a clear picture of your child’s journey.
- The evaluation request email starts the "clock." The school district must meet to do a Review of Existing Data (RED). The parents are usually invited to this meeting, however, it can vary by district. We recommend asking for an approximate time estimate for when the Review of Existing Data should be completed. Include that question when you send the evaluation request.There is no "set" time on that, unfortunately, however, it should be done in a reasonable amount of time. Ten school days should be sufficient and that's a good estimate for the completion of the request.
- After you sign the completed Review of Existing Data (RED) form, the LEA (school district; LEA is a fancy acronym for Local Education Agency) must obtain the parent's written consent on the Special Education Parent Consent form for an initial evaluation within ten (10) school days.
- The time from the initial evaluation to the IEP meeting must be conducted within 45 school days. This timeframe begins upon the receipt of parental consent to conduct the evaluation (or acceptance of the outside evaluation) and ends with the determination of eligibility for special education services. At that point, you will have a meeting to determine if the child qualifies for an IEP or 504. It is important to know your rights as a parent. This document outlines those rights and it is a LOT of information.
- After the evaluation is complete, we would encourage you to ask the school district when the IEP determination meeting is scheduled to be and that you'd like to see a draft at least five days beforehand so that you can ensure a meaningful and productive conversation at the meeting to best fit your child's needs. I would also suggest sending the education team a parent concern/input letter after you receive the draft IEP/MEEGs and before the meeting. Whether or not you accept the district services is up to you.
The parent concern/input letter should be the driver of the IEP goals and services. YOU are the leader because you have the long-term vision of the IEP and how it will prepare your child for further education, employment, and independent learning [this is what the entire tenant of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and Special Education services stands on]. You have an equal voice and know your child best! The child can also include anything they feel is important. It can include foundation goals, communication goals, academic goals, self-regulation/executive functioning goals, etc. You will want to include your desired outcome - where the child is five years from now. Again, in the parent concern/advocacy letters, we recommend staying very factual.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! We are sure that it feels a lot like drinking from a firehose. Please remember that YOU are your child’s most important advocate! The staff at EKCO is here to help you every step of the way. We can assist in drafting requests, parent concern & advocacy letters, and coaching you through the process.
If you would like more individualized assistance, we encourage you to reach out to Lucia Frohling at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lucia, our on-site Master IEP Coach®, will get back to you. There is never any charge for our services! YOU are the expert in guiding your child’s education and we are here to support you in any way that we can.
The materials available on this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Click the following link to access The Oklahoma Special Education handbook.