Eligibility How Is It Determined?
As you sit at the IEP Table, the Team is discussing your child and the school says that your child needs to be evaluated and then the Team will meet to discuss his/her “eligibility.” Then, if your child is eligible, an IEP will be written and special education and related services will begin. For me, that was almost a “given” as our daughter is legally blind. Sounded simple, but that’s not always the case.
I didn’t understand the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) law, so I did not understand the need for evaluations and eligibility in the school setting. Only after speaking with the IEP Coach from the (then) parent training center (Central FL Parent Center) did I have that “a-ha” moment”! Your child may have a “medical” diagnosis but he/ she will need to be evaluated in all areas in the school setting (a medical diagnosis is not needed for evaluations for special ed services). The evaluations done by the school/district will help the IEP Team decide if your child is eligible for special education & related services and decide what your child needs educationally.1 Under IDEA, parents are included in the IEP Team that decides a child’s eligibility for special education services.2
The district must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about your child that may assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability and the educational needs of the child. This will include parental input. There are two questions to answer:
– Does your son or daughter have a disability?
– Does your child “by reason thereof, need special education and related services”?3
According to IDEA, the disability must affect the child’s educational performance. The challenge of eligibility comes down to a question of whether the child has a disability that fits in one of IDEA’s 13 categories and whether that disability affects how the child does in school. That is to say, the disability must cause the child to need special education and related services.4
If the Team decides that your child is NOT eligible under the IDEA law, they must provide parents this in writing and explain why your child has been found “not eligible.” You must also be given information about what you can do if you disagree with this decision.5 Your child might be eligible for a 504 Plan. Under Section 504, FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.6
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