Know before you go
What to expect at a disposition-of referral or evaluation meeting
Hearing that your child is not progressing can cause a lot of anxiety, but thinking about having to go to the meeting during which every concern will be brought up and analyzed can be even more stressful.
The more you know about disposition-of-referral and evaluation plan meetings the better you can approach these meetings as an educated team member making informed decisions for your child.
Because of parent conferences and other communications, you know your child has been struggling. But what you don’t know is who referred your child for an evaluation. You’ll want to know who filled out the referral form, and why, before you attend the disposition-of-referral meeting.
Those involved with your child’s school experience will sign in to the meeting as team members along with you. The team will include, at minimum, the classroom teacher, special education teacher, school nurse, school psychologist, you and the Local Education Agency (LEA), who is usually the special education coordinator.
The team reviews the referral and a discussion is had about how to best proceed. The team may determine a comprehensive evaluation should be conducted. If this is agreed upon, the team proceeds by filling out an evaluation plan for your child.
The team will go through questions specifically aimed at determining if your child has an educationally handicapping condition that requires special education services.
Each standardized test is designed to address specific areas. Determining what the team is considering regarding your child’s needs will shape the path of the comprehensive evaluation.
If your child has never been evaluated before and a learning disability is suspected, a cognitive assessment will be chosen. Academic achievement tests will be decided upon. And at least one classroom observation will be completed, usually by the special educator assigned to the team. While that person will want to observe your child in the area in which he or she is having the most difficulty, your child should be observed in their stronger areas as well.
If your child is having trouble with gross or fine motor skills, those assessments will be done. If language issues are in question, a speech language pathologist will conduct those assessments.
The school nurse will conduct a health screening. If there are any behavioral concerns, you may be asked to fill out checklists or to come in for an interview with the school psychologist.
All team members will be asked to sign an agreement, and you will be asked to give consent to proceed with the comprehensive evaluation. For an initial evaluation, the team has 60 days to conduct the tests and write reports. You will be asked to come in for an evaluation summary meeting to talk about the results. Five days prior, you will receive copies of the tests to review.
Every step of the way, your rights will be explained to you, and you will be asked to give consent. Knowing the process will make it more approachable for you and for your child.
Elizabeth Feingold retired from Kearsarge Regional School District, where she worked for over 30 years as a special education teacher and coordinator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is now a consultant and advocate. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .