THE REFERRAL PROCESS: BEGINNING THE PARTNERSHIP
"Children bring unique abilities, strengths, and styles of learning to the educational setting. When a child has difficulty in school. it may be noticed by the teacher, other school personnel, the parents or the child.
What happens when a teacher has concerns?
If a teacher has concerns with a child's school performance, he or she may request assistance from the Student Assistance Team. The Student Assistance Team is a general education initiative designed to support teachers through strategies and suggestions for students who are experiencing difficulty in regular education. If the student's performance continues to raise concerns the teacher will refer the student to the Pupil Study Team (PST). The PST, composed of the classroom teacher, special education teacher and other school personnel as needed (speech therapist, psychologist), work with the classroom teacher to suggest alternative intervention strategies for helping the child. Though this is not a special education process, it is required before a referral for special education (except in emergencies). Parents are made aware of this process before it is initiated. After alternative strategies have been used, the teacher and other involved school personnel evaluate the child's school performance and determine whether the alternative strategies are successful and should continue. Very often, many problems are resolved at this level.
If, after a series of interventions, the team members believe a full evaluation may be necessary, they request an IEP team meeting with the parents to discuss the need for evaluation. This is a formal process, that follows state and federal guidelines, to which parents must be invited. This referral "starts the clock" with mandated timelines .
Special education law requires the school to meet strict time deadlines in evaluating a child and formulating an appropriate IEP. After the initial referral, the school must complete its evaluation and formulate an IEP, if appropriate, within 45 school days (excluding weekends, holidays, school vacations and the time required to obtain written parental consent). As is explained below, a parent may also initiate a referral that will "start the clock running." The initial referral that begins this 45-day period can take place at any time during the school year, even if there are not 45 days left before the end of the school year. In that case, the time remaining on the 45-day period when summer vacation begins will be counted starting the following fall when school reconvenes.
What happens when a parent has concerns?
The parent may also make a request for a special education evaluation by writing a letter to the teacher leader/assistant principal at the school your child attends. It is wise to date your request and keep a copy for your records. You may also verbally request a referral, however, a letter provides proof that a referral was indeed made. Upon the receipt of the request for evaluation, the team will meet to consider the request. A request for evaluation does not automatically trigger an evaluation. The team will meet and discuss the reasons for the request and determine if an evaluation is warranted. If the team decides to refer for evaluation, the same process outlined above would then be followed. If the parents disagree with the team's decision regarding the evaluation, they may refuse consent or exercise their due process rights.
From the initial referral:
- 45 school days to special education implementation (minus the time needed to obtain permission)
- 60 schools days to special education implementation for students in private schools (minus the time needed to obtain permission)
Parents should receive written notice of a referral for special education evaluation made by school personnel within 5 days after the referral is made.