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STEP 1: SUSPECTING A DISABILITY

Team Involvement When a Disability is Suspected

The team that determines if a disability is suspected includes, at a minimum, the AEA or AEA in collaboration with the local district. The team must include personnel who understand the rules for eligibility under the IDEA, Iowa law, and the Special Education Eligibility and Evaluation Standards and have direct knowledge of the learner and the ability to interpret performance data.

For concerns at this level, the AEA and/or LEA should be engaged in ongoing communication with the parents, including sharing information and actively seeking relevant information from the parents/family. Parent participation is strongly encouraged at the point of determining whether a disability is suspected, however, it is not required. A meeting is one means of sharing information and determining if a disability is suspected, but a meeting is not required for this process.

Preschool Age Children: If a child is attending preschool, Head Start, or other similar settings for children of preschool age, a representative from the agency who has knowledge of the child will be considered “a representative from the LEA.” In the case where a young child is served at home, an “LEA” may not apply.

Children eligible for Early ACCESS: If the child is receiving early intervention services, the Early ACCESS Service Coordinator must initiate a transition planning meeting at least 3 months and up to 9 months prior to the child’s third birthday with approval of the family. The IFSP team, in collaboration with the AEA special education staff, review data to determine if the child is suspected of having a disability and if a full and individual initial evaluation is warranted.

Information Used to Suspect a Disability

When determining if there is suspicion of a disability, the team shall consider and review all relevant, available information, which may include:

  • Formative assessment or other screening information
  • Performance monitoring from supplementary instruction
  • Educational, health and family history
  • Reports from outside providers
  • Observations
  • Progress toward achieving IFSP outcomes
  • Interviews with teachers, parents, the child, and others familiar with the individual
  • Additional child-specific records

Data reviewed may all be used in guiding the team’s consideration of the four conditions for suspecting a disability.

Note: Attempts to resolve educational difficulties prior to the decision to conduct a full and individual initial evaluation are important and are the responsibility of general education in the general education setting. However, interventions delivered in the general education setting, must not delay appropriate evaluation if the child is suspected of having a disability.

Four Conditions for Suspecting a Disability

Teams utilize the “Disability Suspected” form to guide and document the consideration of the four conditions indicating a disability is suspected. In Iowa, a disability is suspected and triggers the need for a Full and Individual Initial Evaluation when any one of the following conditions exists:

Condition 1 – When there is data to suggest that:

  • the child has a diagnosis of a condition that is specifically listed in IDEA’s disability categories or is clearly included within one of IDEA’s disability categories, and
  • the condition has a discernible effect on educational performance.

 

Condition 2 – Whenever a child’s performance:

  • is not meeting standards, and
  • is unique when compared to peers.

 

Condition 3 – When there is enough data to suggest that:

  • the child has received high-quality instruction (general instruction plus evidence-based supplemental instruction), and
  • the child’s performance is not meeting standards and is not progressing towards meeting the standards.

 

Condition 4 – When there is enough data to suggest that:

  • the child has received high-quality instruction (general instruction plus evidence-based supplemental instruction), and
  • the child is meeting the standards or is progressing towards meeting standards, but requires a continued and substantial effort that may include the provision of special education and related services.

 

If any of these four conditions are met, it is reasonable to suspect that a disability exists and the AEA, in conjunction with the district, must seek parental consent to conduct a Full and Individual Initial Evaluation.

If none of these four conditions are met, it is reasonable to assume that a disability is not suspected. If the parent had requested an evaluation, the team must provide the parent with Prior Written Notice to document the decision to not move forward with an evaluation.

Parent Request for Evaluation

Parents may request an evaluation at any time. However, a full and individual initial evaluation is required only if the child is suspected of having a disability. The Disability Suspected Form has been developed to guide teams through this decision-making process. Given a parent request, teams are encouraged to examine all performance domains using the Disability Suspected Form to ensure appropriate consideration of multiple factors that may impact educational performance. The public agency should review all relevant existing information, including information provided by the parents from outside evaluations.

In cases where the parents request an evaluation and the team concludes that a disability is not suspected, the agency need not conduct an initial evaluation. Prior Written Notice must be provided to the parent, which includes an explanation of why the public agency refuses to conduct the evaluation and the information upon which this decision is based.

Explore Step 2 in the Child Find Process

After the team determines there is a suspicion of disability, the team must seek parental consent and begin planning for the full and individual initial evaluation.