• Michelle Mason, Ph.D.

How to Get your Child Special Education Services


If you think your child may need special education, send a certified letter to your child’s teacher and the principal requesting a special education evaluation/assessment.

  • Within 15 days, the school must let you know whether they will assess your child.

  • If they say yes, then you will receive an assessment plan. You should sign and return it if it says they are assessing all areas of the suspected disability. For instance, if you think your child may need speech services, that should .

  • If they say no, receive Prior Written Notice (a letter explaining why they think they should not assess).

  • If you do not hear from the school in 15 days, remind them in writing that you are waiting their decision.

  • If they agree to assess your child, they must complete the assessments and set up a meeting with you within 60 days of their receipt of the assessment plan (signed by you).

What if they refuse to do an assessment?

It depends on what you think your child’s disability might be. If you suspect your child has a medical condition, such as autism or ADHD, go to your doctor to get that assessed, if you have not done so already. Provide those medical records to the school. Even though you have a diagnosis from a doctor, the school district will still want to assess your child to see if they qualify for special education. There is about a 50/50 chance they will assess your child for special education services. They may instead offer your child a 504 Plan. It is up to you whether you think a 504 Plan suffices to meet your child’s needs. I recommend getting an IEP if you can.

If you have tried the above or do not think your child has a medical condition. Your first step is to ask for Prior Written Notice (PWN), they have not already sent it to you. Once you have the PWN, respond to each point in the PWN explaining why your child really needs an assessment. This should work 80%-90% of the time. However, if they continue to refuse to your child, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (paid for by the district). If they refuse this evaluation, they must file for due process (court). This used to be rare that they would do this, but it is now becoming more common.

Finally, you can also pay for your own evaluation. Some insurance plans will cover some or all of the assessments. Then take those to the school district. They will again do their own evaluation of your child.


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