*Due to COVID-19 school closures, many procedures have changed. Please email or call your school district to ask about current information regarding evaluations and services*
1. Start Early – 3 years old
Your child could be eligible for school-based services as early as 3 years old in the state of California. For students that are referred before their 3rd birthday, evaluations are started around 2 years and 10 months old. A meeting is held before the child’s 3rd birthday to discuss the evaluation results, and what service(s) they may be eligible to receive through the district.
- If your child is currently receiving speech therapy funded by Regional Center, the evaluation process will be initiated automatically. Regional Center will send transfer paperwork to your child’s school district, and they will assign someone at your child’s school of residence to complete the evaluation. This is because the school district needs to do their own evaluation to see if your child is eligible for services with them.
- If your child has not had any previous speech therapy with Regional Center, you can go to your local school district and request an evaluation. A speech-language pathologist at the district will complete the evaluation and set up the team meeting to discuss results and services they can offer, if any.
- If your child is over the age of 3, the district will have 60 days to complete the evaluation process.
2. The Evaluation Process
The purpose of the evaluation is to determine eligibility for specialized services at the school.
The evaluation will take place through your local district, and most likely at your school of residence, based on your address. It is usually completed in one or two sessions. Please show up to all scheduled appointments. School speech therapists have large caseloads of students, so it is important to keep your appointments. At the first appointment, you will be provided with a copy of your parent rights. Ask questions if you have any. You may be asked to complete questionnaires or rating scales. These are important tools in which you can share your observations and concerns. The speech therapist will complete assessments based on your areas of concern. Your child’s scores on some assessments are statistically compared to other students their age. You will find out the results of the evaluation at a meeting held by the team of professionals involved with your child’s services at the Individualized Education Plan meeting, also called IEP meeting.
Note: Your child may or may not qualify for services, even if they qualified for Regional Center services as a toddler. School-based special education services are designed to support students with disabilities and severe impairments. If you have questions about eligibility criteria, please see your parent rights packet or discuss with your evaluating specialist.
3. What is an IEP?
IEP Stands for “Individualized Education Plan”. This is the document that outlines your child’s specific needs and the services agreed upon by the team, to benefit the student’s educational development. In other words, this document states what your child is entitled to for their education. The document is meant to stay with you if you move to a new school, or even a new state, and will be adopted or adapted by the new school as appropriate. The IEP team includes you (the parent), the child’s teacher or representative, an administrator, and any specialist who may have evaluated your child (speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, adaptive PE teacher, psychologist, special education teacher). Each year, the entire team will meet for an annual IEP meeting. At these meetings you will all discuss the child’s progress, discuss the services, and write new goals for the next year. As part of the team, you always have the choice to agree or disagree with the IEP. Every 3 years, a “Triennial IEP meeting” is held. At this time, your child will be re-evaluated for eligibility of special education services.
- YOU are a very important member of your child’s IEP team.
- Be open about your concerns and how they affect the child’s home life.
- Be active in communicating with the IEP team. You can even request an additional meeting if needed.
- Don’t feel pressured to sign any documentation the same day, you can always take the document home to review and return the signed document later, however the services will not begin until the IEP document is signed with your approval.
- If your child is found eligible for any special education services, they may offer services in those areas. For speech and language, services are typically offered once or twice a week for about 30 minutes, and are usually held in a small group. This depends on the severity of the impairment and recommendation of your speech therapist and IEP team. If your child is not currently enrolled in a district preschool program, these services may be offered as “walk on” or “by appointment” on a weekly basis, such as every Monday from 9:30-10:00. If your child is enrolled in a district preschool program, their speech services will be provided when they are attending school during the day. This might be in the classroom in a small group, or in a different room on campus, like the speech therapist’s office.
Please note: Speech and language services are considered part of “Special Education”. If the only area of disability is a speech and/or language impairment, this will not necessarily affect their class placement in school. The term “Special Education” refers to any service provided outside of the general education curriculum. This does not necessarily mean that your child will be placed in a special education class.
5. Follow-through at Home
Be an active participant in your child’s education. Your child will receive the most benefit from their services if you follow through with recommendations at home. If your speech therapist provides homework or things to practice, follow-through as best you can. If they do not provide any homework, ask for some! Communicate regularly with your child’s teachers and specialists. Their goal is to support your child. The best way to do that is together as a team.
Terms to know:
- IEP – Individualized Education Plan This is the document that outlines your child’s specific needs and the services agreed upon by the team, to benefit the student’s educational development.
- SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist Also known as a “speech therapist”, this professional is an expert in speech and language development, and will evaluate your child’s speech and/or language skills, recommend a service plan, and select goals to target in therapy sessions.
- FAPE- Free and Appropriate Public Education This is part of special education law, which states that each eligible child with a disability is entitled to free, appropriate, public education, adjusted to meet that child’s unique needs for education.
- LRE – Least Restrictive Environment This is the idea that it is best for students to be in an environment that is “least restrictive”, or as close to the general education curriculum as is appropriate for an individual student. It prevents students from being put in class placements that are not appropriate for them, or being pulled out of class for services that are not absolutely necessary.
- SOR – School of Residence The school your child would attend based on your address.