March is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. If you are a parent/guardian of a student who might have a learning disability, the Education Unit at SCLS would like you to know the following:
– A child with a “specific learning disability” is entitled to free special education services at their home school district.
– If your child is consistently underperforming on state tests and/or is struggling in basic subjects like math or English Language Arts, they might have a learning disability.
– To be classified as having a “specific learning disability” or “SLD”, you must first request the school district to test or “evaluate” your child
o The request should be done in writing.
o The request should explain why you want the evaluation – namely, that you believe your child has a learning disability and qualifies for an Individualized Education Program or “IEP”
o The request should have the student’s name, date of birth, school, as well as the parent/guardian’s information
o If you would like assistance with drafting this request, apply for our services. If you qualify, WE CAN HELP!
– In most cases, prior to an evaluation, the school district will place your child in a “Response to Intervention” or “RTI” program. In RTI, your child will receive some special instruction to try and get them caught-up and performing at their grade-level.
o If your child responds well and begins to perform at their grade-level, GREAT! It is likely they do not have a learning disability.
o If your child does not respond well, and continues to perform poorly at school and/or on state tests, you should insist on moving forward with the evaluation
– The evaluation is technically called a “psychoeducational evaluation.” It’s performed by a school psychologist at your child’s school over the course of a few days. You will have to sign some paperwork to authorize the test.
o The school district has 60 days to complete this evaluation. There is no exception for holidays or summer break.
– Once the evaluation is complete, the school district will invite you to a meeting to review the results.
o If the school district believes your child has a specific learning disability, the team (which includes you!) will then develop an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to address your child’s needs. Specifically, the team will develop goals for your child and explain the amount of special education time they will need to complete those goals.
o If the school district does not believe your child has a specific learning disability, and therefore does not qualify for an IEP, you have the following options:
§ Insist on further RTI “(Response to Intervention”) services.
§ Request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) of the school, in writing. An IEE is an evaluation done by a qualified professional who is not employed by the school, and who you get to choose. The school district will have to pay for this evaluation.
§ Hire an attorney, including applying for our services. If you qualify, WE CAN HELP!
The Education Unit at SCLS is always here to help qualified parents/guardians with their education-related programs. If you need some basic advice, apply! If you need someone to explain the process, or your options, apply! If you believe you need to file a lawsuit against the school district, apply! You can apply for help by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.