The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, or IDEA, states that a child with a disability, who has been evaluated as having a disability (see disabilities), and due to their disability requires special education and related services. [§300.8 (a)(1)]
During the evaluation process, there are two critical items which are identified: 1) does the child meet the criteria as having a disability and 2) is there a need for special education and related services. If there is only a need for a related service and not special education, then the child is not considered to be a child with a disability, according the federal regulations. However, if the related service is considered special education rather than a related service, then the child would be considered to be a child with a disability.
There are 13 disabilities, as referenced by federal and state laws. The disabilities are: Autism, Deaf-blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Visual Impairment-including blindness, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Speech and Language Impairment, Other Health Impairment, and Specific Learning Disability.
A parent of a child or a public agency (e.g. through an SST process, teacher referral), may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability. When parents consent to the initial evaluation, the school district has 60 days to complete its evaluation and conduct an IEP meeting to determine eligibility [Fed. Reg. §300.301 (c)(1)(i)]. California Ed. Code [30 EC 56043 (f)(1)], states that school districts have 60 calendar days, not counting vacations in excess of 5 days towards the timeline, unless the parent agrees to an extension in writing.
The purpose of the initial evaluation is to: 1) determine if the child is a child with disability, and 2) determine the educational needs of the child. [ Fed. Reg. §300.301 (c)(2)(i)(ii)]Once a child is deemed a “child with a disability”, a reevaluation must occur once at least every three years, unless the parents and district agree that a reevaluation is not needed. In addition, a reevaluation may not occur more frequently than once per year, unless the parent and district agree otherwise.
After the assessments are complete, an IEP team meeting is held with a group of educational professionals, which may include a School Psychologist, Speech and Language Pathologist, School Nurse, Resource or Special Day Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Adaptive PE Teacher, Physical Therapist, Counselor, Mental Health Therapist, or others, and the parent to determine: 1) is the child a child with a disability, and 2) the educational needs of the child.
At the meeting, the district provides a copy of the report(s) and any documentation in determining eligibility at no cost to the parents.