When you contact your school district with concerns that your child might need special education services, they will probably want to perform an evaluation. They may refer to the process as a Full and Individual Evaluation (FIE) or an FIIE, Full and Individual Initial Evaluation. These are the exact same thing. But they will need your consent, in writing, to proceed.
The district will probably ask for a lot of information about your child before the evaluation. The more detail you can provide the better. You may have to fill out forms, answer questions, or both. They will want to know:
- Your child’s medical information or a doctor’s diagnosis. Bring anything you have in writing from a doctor or therapist, along with doctor's phone/fax numbers
- Developmental milestones, such as when your child first sat, crawled, walked and talked. Writing this down ahead of time will help you feel more organized
- Other information about his behavior, such as what he does and doesn’t like to do. Sharing videos you’ve made of your child may help them understand his needs
If you think the unfamiliar surroundings will affect your child’s evaluation, bring videos, pictures and information about what he’s like in his familiar environments.
The school will schedule the evaluation. Make sure the time and place they suggest will work for you and your child. If not, speak up and ask for a better time and/or place.
The evaluation should be performed in your child’s native language. If your child is not a native English speaker, be sure the school is aware of your child's first language.
Even if a doctor has diagnosed your child, he still needs an assessment to determine eligibility to receive special education services. The diagnosis means your child has a medical disorder or condition. The evaluation helps the school understand how the disorder or condition affects your child’s ability to be successful in school.
There are different kinds of evaluations. Some school districts may evaluate your child by watching him play. Other school districts may see how well he can perform simple tasks. Some evaluators may want you to be in the room. Others may want to see how your child reacts away from you. It all depends on how the school district works, and on your child’s situation. There isn’t one right kind of evaluation.
Make sure you ask someone in your school district to explain how the evaluation will work
If the school district says your child doesn’t qualify for special education services and you disagree, you have the right to get an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This is an evaluation done by a qualified examiner who does not work for the school district. If you ask for an IEE, the school district must give you information about where you can get it. Keep in mind that the IEE may not be free and the school district may not be legally required to pay for it. But don’t hesitate to ask them to pay for it anyway—they just might.