Navigating Epilepsy: The Road Ahead

Educational Assessment of Your Child

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If your child has epilepsy, it’s likely that you have a lot of questions and concerns about how this condition may or may not affect their academic development, and about what you can do to ensure your child is learning to his or her highest potential. Although not all children diagnosed with epilepsy will experience learning difficulties, some may.  If they do, this may be a difficult process for children and parents alike and it may cause you concern and worry. However, it is important for you to understand that although your child may have some difficulties, there are many services your child can, and should, receive in order to ensure that they reach their highest potential, despite whatever difficulties they may have.

Locating and securing such services can seem like a complicated and, at times, overwhelming process. So, as a parent, you need to remain informed, organized, and proactive in order to ensure this process runs smoothly and in a timely manner.  The information below will provide you with some initial information regarding how to initiate this process.  In this post, I will simple cover the initial steps of obtaining an initial evaluation of your child, but please stay tuned for what happens after the evaluation is conducted and the status of your child determined.

 

OBTAINING AN EVALUATION

If your notice that your child struggled during the last academic year, or that he or she did not develop the academic skills expected, you may want to have him or her formally evaluated. Often times, your child’s teacher will notice the potential problems/delays, and will request an evaluation.  However, if they do not, you have the right to.

State law requires school districts to evaluate all children referred for an evaluation. If your child’s teacher did not request such an evaluation, you have the right to request one and the school must conduct this evaluation (or provide a response to your request) within 30 days.  In order to make this request, you must write a letter to the school district requesting such an evaluation.  You should, if possible, be specific about the type of evaluation you think your child needs.  Some possible areas to consider are:

  • Psychological Evaluation An assessment of overall intellectual capabilities, including, among others, verbal and non-verbal intelligence, processing speed, attention, concentration, and memory.
  • Educational Assessment– Evaluates specific areas of academic development, including, among others, reading, writing, math, and spelling.
  • Speech and Language Evaluation– As assessment of the child’s language skills, including, among others, receptive language (ability to understand spoken language), expressive language (ability to express him/herself verbally), phonological awareness, and articulation.
  • Occupational Assessment– An evaluation of various aspects of motor skills, including, among others, fine motor skills, visual-motor integration, and sensory integration.
  • Behavioral Observation– This includes an observation of the child’s behavior in her/her current academic setting in order to assess possible behavioral and social concerns.

 

RESULTS OF THE EVALUATION:

Once the evaluation has been conducted, results, as well as a written report of the evaluation, must be provided to the parent. This will usually happen during a meeting set up between the parents and the individuals who conducted the evaluation, otherwise known as the Committee.  It is VERY important that you attend this meeting, and if you cannot, you have the right to ask that the district change the time/place of the meeting.  At this meeting, the Committee will review the evaluation results and, based on that information, will decide if your child is eligible or ineligible to receive special education programs and/or services.  In order to be eligible, a child must have a disability that affects his or her ability to learn.

According to education law, a student qualifies as disabled if he or she:

  • Has a mental or physical impairment, a record of impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment; and
  • Is substantially limited in his or her major life activities that include abilities such as (but not limited to) self-care, breathing, walking, seeing, performing schoolwork, speaking, and learning.

If the Committee decides your child qualifies as disabled, he or she is eligible for special education services.  The Committee will identify the category that most appropriately describes your child and they will develop and implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to meet your child’s needs (IEPs will be covered in more detail in another blog post to follow).

If the Committee decides your child does not qualify as disabled, he/she will NOT eligible for an IEP.  In this case they must provide you with information about how they came to this decision.  They will also provide this information to the school so that teachers can still work with your child’s needs, despite the lack of qualification as a disabled student.  They may also make another referral under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to another multidisciplinary team within the school (504 plans will be covered in more detail in another blog post to follow).

 

IF YOU DISAGREE WITH RESULTS OF THE EVALUATION:

If you feel the evaluation provided by the school committee is not appropriate, or you disagree with the results of the evaluation, you can request that the school district pay for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This independent evaluation can provide you with a second opinion and may be instrumental in obtaining the necessary qualification of disabled so that your child can then receive special services at school.

  • If you ask for the IEE to be at the district’s expense, the school has the right to ask for an impartial hearing to demonstrate that the evaluation is appropriate.
  • You should also remember that you are free to obtain a private (outside) evaluation at your own expense at any point in time.  If you chose to go this route, you should seek the services of a neuropsychologist who specializes or has experience in assessing children with epilepsy.  Although some insurance companies may pay for a portion of the provider’s fees, these assessments can be rather expensive, so it often advisable that you first attempt to have your child assessed thought the school system.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Now that your child has been formally assessed, a plan of action can be created. As mentioned above, there are three options in this case. One, your child is not disabled and can and should resume standard academic instruction, two, your child is not disabled but does have some difficulties with can be addressed via a 504 Plan, or lastly, your child is disabled and qualifies for special services via the implementation of an IEP.  This different course of action will be further discussed in the next blog post, so please stay tuned.

 

 

 

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