Special Education & Evaluation
You are entitled to obtain a free evaluation for your child if you suspect or have been told by a teacher or pediatrician that his or her physical, mental, language or social development is not progressing as anticipated. Evaluations can help assess your child’s learning style and delays or lags in the development of motor abilities, thinking and comprehension, speech and language skills and social and emotional reactions. It is in the best interests of any child, and his or her family, to address concerns about development as early as possible. The earlier delays are evaluated and addressed, the better the outcome.
When a child has been identified with special needs, our special education itinerant teachers collaborate closely with parents, related service providers, classroom teachers and school administrators to tailor services to that child’s needs and abilities.
For more information about evaluation and special education itinerant teaching services or to schedule an evaluation please contact Jessica Taylor.
What is an IEP?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legal document that contains details of the services that have been mandated for a child by the Committee on Preschool Special Education. These might include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, special education itinerant teacher services, physical therapy or counseling. It also details whether the services will be provided for 10 months or 12 months per year, and also the length of time and frequency of the sessions that will be provided each week. The IEP also contains the current long-term and short-term therapeutic goals for each service mandated.
An IEP must be on file at the site for each child receiving mandated services. Each member of a child’s team, which includes parents/guardians, classroom teachers and service providers, must be aware of the goals for that child and provide the services/activities that will best facilitate his or her achieving them.
IEP’s are updated every three months, during quarterly team meetings. They are submitted to the Committee on Preschool Special Education once a year at an annual review.
How do I prepare my child for an Evaluation?
We find that being honest and brief with your child will help give him/her much-needed information and parental support. A good starting point is to describe the evaluation process, which means that:
S/he will visit a school where “teachers” will play with them and ask questions. This visit will be in a special room (not a classroom).
Teachers will come and visit with your child at home. During the visit, the teacher will show him/her some pictures, do some things with blocks and ask some questions.
If occupational and/or physical therapy are part of the evaluation, the teacher will ask your child to do participate in various movement activities, perhaps using balls or swings.
You may bring a snack to make your child feel comfortable. It’s likely that your child will take a little time to warm up to this unfamiliar situation. You should encourage your child in a way that you know works best – although your physical presence and verbal encouragement are likely to be enough. We do not expect young children to be rushed into performance and take this into consideration in each of our evaluations.
Who refers a child for evaluation?
Children are referred by their parents or legal guardians. The suggestion to have a child evaluated often starts with concerns first observed by a child’s parents, school or physician. The consent to have an evaluation conducted can only be given by his/her parents or legal guardian(s).
What is the evaluation process like for a child who has never received services?
The Rivendell evaluation process is the same for all children, whether or not they have previously received services. For evaluations funded by the Department of Education, Rivendell School conducts a social history session, psychological assessment of the child, an educational observation and a sharing meeting. Some evaluations, according to the initial concerns that prompted it, may also include a speech and language evaluation, a physical therapy and/or an occupational therapy evaluation. Private evaluations are arranged according to the specific requests and agreements made during the referral process.
What is the role of the classroom teacher in the evaluation process?
Classroom teachers play an important role in the evaluation process. It is their job to report to parents and evaluators on a child’s functioning within the classroom. Their knowledge of and insights into a child’s abilities, challenges and learning style are critical to the process. Formal testing provides only some of the information needed to evaluate a child’s level of functioning. Teachers are asked to provide responses to a questionnaire that gives detailed information regarding the child’s functioning and abilities in the classroom. Interviews with teachers also will be conducted by the educational evaluator.
What is the role of the parents/legal guardians in the evaluation process?
The evaluation process via the CPSE is a parent-driven program. Evaluation cannot be initiated without formal parental consent, and at the end of this evaluation process it is in the parents’ hands as to how to use the information generated. During the evaluation process we help parents understand their rights and their role during each evaluation. As the evaluation process draws to an end, we help parents better understand the evaluation findings so they can make an informed decision about how to use this information. The parents are the strongest advocates for their child and have an intuitive understanding of the child that cannot be matched by any other individual. When all is said and done, this is your child.
Who has access to the evaluation report?
All reports are confidential and are made available to teachers or school administrators only if parents or guardians give written permission for the information to be released. If the Department of Education is paying for the evaluation, all assessments must be made available to the Committee on Preschool Special Education.
How can I use the evaluation results to help my child?
The evaluation results will provide information that describes your child’s abilities and challenges along with details regarding what factors appear to facilitate and deter your child’s learning. The evaluation also will provide practical suggestions as well as recommendations for supportive therapeutic services. Such services can help your child if areas of significant challenge are identified.
Your knowledge of your child, in conjunction with the evaluation recommendations, will help you advocate for your child and better enable you to work with his/her teachers to maximize your child’s learning potential. As part of the evaluation process itself, Rivendell’s Evaluation Coordinator will help you better understand the evaluation findings and recommendations during the sharing meeting. At that time, you also will have an opportunity to discuss how to take full advantage of the information presented by the evaluation.
When is the best time to have an evaluation done?
Is it best done sooner or later, once the notion of a “problem” has been raised? The most important criteria to consider in having your child evaluated is to be aware of how much the “problem” or “area of concern” is interfering with your child’s learning, socializing or physical development.
What is the difference between a "problem" and a developmental delay?
Though at times used interchangeably, perhaps carelessly, these terms are not equivalent. Educational evaluation determines a child’s abilities and challenges, the level of functioning in each area of development and, within this context, defines areas that may be a problem.
Within an educational model, the purpose of an evaluation of a preschool child is to generate information about the challenges that may interfere with that child’s ability to learn within the classroom, physically navigate the environment and engage with peers for social play. Evidence of developmental delay contributes to an overall understanding of the challenges that a child presents with, but developmental delays do not automatically imply that there is a problem. A child with developmental delays may be productively engaged within the classroom despite challenges. A child with no developmental delay, or indeed whose development may be exceptional/gifted, may still have challenges within the classroom.
Evaluation helps to unravel the relative impact of the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and devise an educational plan that may include practical suggestions and recommendations for supportive therapeutic services.
My child’s behavior in school is very different than it is at home. Is this pertinent to an evaluation?
Home and school environments are by their very nature distinct, and it is common for a child’s behavior to differ in each setting.
CPSE evaluation requires observation of children within the preschool as well as consultation with the classroom teacher. Typically the preschool environment is a dynamic, noisy, busy place that encourages children to negotiate with their peers for informal social play and structured group activities. Children’s underlying abilities may be masked within the school setting as they struggle to meet the demands of classroom routine. In direct contrast, the home is often a much quieter place where the child has the undivided attention of adults. Typically this is where we as evaluators are able to directly observe children’s abilities in the place they feel most comfortable. Comparing these snapshots we take of the child at home and at school allows us to offer a truly comprehensive evaluation.
We have heard many different opinions about our child’s development and behavior. Will more information help or confuse us further?
Throughout the evaluation process we place emphasis on facilitating the parents participation, listen carefully to the concerns raised by parents, and ultimately support the parents to understand the finding of the evaluation so that they can make an informed decision as to how to use the array of information generated. Our aim is to help parents find clarity.