"Why Would We Do an Evaluation, She Already Gets Services?"

Published on November 9, 2010 by Jennifer Laviano

As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis.  But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.

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Such statements mislead or misrepresent the school’s legal obligations, and always in a way that benefits the school district.

After hearing so many of them, I decided to add a separate category to my blog just for this purpose, where I will post these ridiculous comments and explain why it likely violates IDEA.  Hopefully, if you’ve heard similar things from your district, next time around you will know better!

Today’s Ridiculous Comment

Recently I attended an IEP meeting on behalf of a client who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  The district had asked its Occupational Therapist (“OT”) to do an evaluation.  When the OT reported her findings, the parents were disappointed, because it was quite clear to them (and me) that the evaluation was neither thorough nor accurate.  My response was to ask for an IEE.

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The Director of Special Education was so clearly underwhelmed by his own OT's evaluation that he agreed to it, no questions asked.

We were feeling pretty comfortable as we started discussing names of private evaluators on whom we could agree to do the IEE.  The tone of the meeting had gone from tense to fairly cooperative.  Until…

The OT decided to weigh in…with today's Ridiculous Comment.

“I'm sorry, I'm just a little confused.  An evaluation is performed in order to decide whether a child should get services.  She already gets services, so why would we do another evaluation?

It was hard to know which was more entertaining, the swiftness with which the Special Ed Director lept over the table to shut the OT up, or the look of sheer humiliation on the part of the school's attorney.  If pressed, I'd vote for the latter.

Evaluations do far more than just determine whether a child is entitled to services.  Evaluations DRIVE PROGRAMMING.  They assist the team in designing intervention.

Or at least they should.

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I'm considering having a card made up that I can hand out at IEP meetings that says:

“Congratulations!  You've just said something so ridiculous that you've become a blog post at www.SpecialEdJustice.com!”

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So, the next time you hear this comment, that evaluations are only necessary to determine eligibility, I suggest you ask this question:  “are you saying that children in this district are only evaluated to determine eligibility, never to provide information about programs?”  If the answer is “no,” then you're on your way.  If they answer “yes,” then do your best to make sure that is reflected either in the documentation of that IEP meeting itself, or in a follow up from you.

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6 Responses to "Why Would We Do an Evaluation, She Already Gets Services?"

  1. Anne Barbano
    November 9th, 2010 | 10:22 pm

    Jennifer make the card. Just speaking about you to another Spec. needs lawyer in VT How timely.

    Keep your sense of humor – “Congratulations! You’ve just said something so ridiculous that you’ve become a blog post at http://www.SpecialEdJustice.com!”

    Thanks, ANNE

  2. Dennise Goldberg
    November 10th, 2010 | 10:23 am

    The best one I ever heard, and was also put in writing , was from a SST meeting where the resource specialist said, “We will not assess for special education becuase the child’s emotional disturbance is interferring with her academics”.

    Last time I checked ED was one of the eligibility categories.

  3. Rochelle
    November 10th, 2010 | 2:05 pm

    “The law doesn’t require us to establish a child’s capabilities”

    After 17 years of services, 16 inches of education files and allowing an IEE to go unacted on for three years so they could claim new evaluations are needed – with one year of public obligation remaining … “We don’t know if she’ll qualify for services” (BTW, the special ed director is already setting things up so they can claim primary emotional/behavioral issues so they can circumvent meeting autistic need)

  4. Michelle Bidwell
    November 10th, 2010 | 7:56 pm

    ““Congratulations! You’ve just said something so ridiculous that you’ve become a blog post at http://www.SpecialEdJustice.com!”

    Perfect! I think you should let parents also hand out these cards and forward you the ridiculous comments (like the SLP who informed my husband and I that, yes, we should accompany our 6th grade twins to summer camp if they require that much support to participate in community activities…. OR the sped director who informed the IEP team, when I was requesting SOME services in August for my twins (who got absolutely no services in August “because the teacher’s need a break, too”–on tape) that “we’re not here to help Mom figure out what to do with the rest of the summer”. Oh, yes, get them all entered in the “Most Ridiculous Hall of Fame”!!

  5. Catherine Reisman
    November 13th, 2010 | 9:20 pm

    Jen, I love the card idea. We could all use some of those!

  6. John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
    November 20th, 2010 | 6:51 am

    And then, from the teaching side and as you note, I hope the educators are conducting evaluations beyond those for eligibility so that they can establish where to begin instruction (i.e., what specific skills and content to teach a student) and also frequently assessing a student’s performance to ascertain whether she or he is making appropriate progress and, hence, whether instruction should be modified so that the goals and objective for the student are achieved efficiently.