My son/daughter is struggling in school. Can I get an evaluation through the ApaCenter to get some more help from the school?
If your son or daughter is struggling academically, behaviorally, or developmentally to a significant degree in elementary, middle, or high school, you should consider requesting that the school conduct an evaluation to determine whether he/she meets eligibility criteria for special education services for having a disability (e.g., a learning disabled, speech impaired, emotionally disturbed). To be eligible for special education services, there must be: (1) an educational need (usually evident in academic performance, but the educational need can be social, behavioral, or developmental needs as well), (2) a disability present. Schools will typically not conduct an evaluation for special education services unless there is sufficient evidence of an educational need (e.g., repeated failing grades, ongoing discipline problems, repeatedly failing the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, test), and the student has not made sufficient progress with other documented intervention efforts.
However, before the school will initiate an evaluation to determine whether a student with an educational weakness is eligible for special education services, schools must first assess a student’s Response to Intervention (RTI). If, after an indefinite period of time, the student does not improve through regular education intervention efforts, only then will the school look at the possibility of an evaluation to determine whether the student is eligible for special education services.
Should the school decide, with your consent, to move forward with an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services, this evaluation would be of no charge to you. On the negative side, school-based evaluations can take up to 60 days for the report once consent for the evaluation has been agreed upon and another 30 days to review the results at the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting. In addition, several weeks often pass between when the parent first inquires about testing and the first committee meeting during which consent to conduct the evaluation is officially agreed upon. Finally, the comprehensiveness and quality of school-based evaluations vary considerably depending on the particular district, school, and evaluator.
If you choose to have an assessment of your son or daughter through the ApaCenter, a Ph.D. with a license in psychology with specialized training in the area of concern would conduct it. The Licensed Psychologists at the ApaCenter are also Licensed Specialists in School Psychology (LSSPs). So, we are able to conduct comprehensive evaluations that meet the criteria of schools. A private evaluation through the ApaCenter also allows you to have control over how the results are used and can be helpful in significantly speeding up the process of determining eligibility for special education services. We can usually complete the evaluation and provide feedback within 2-3 weeks.
If the school declines to conduct an assessment of your son or daughter because they perceive only mild struggles, he/she still might be eligible for some accommodations through 504 services. Schools rarely conduct evaluations to determine eligibility for 504 services, but you could try requesting one.
I think that my son/daughter might have a disability and need some accommodations when he/she enters college. Can the ApaCenter help with this?
Yes, the ApaCenter conducts evaluations to help determine whether a student is eligible for Section 504 services at the college level. Colleges usually require a recent, comprehensive evaluation to determine whether a student is eligible for services. Colleges often require comprehensive evaluations to be within the past 3 years for learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD and within the past 12 months for emotional disabilities such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Can the ApaCenter do an evaluation to determine whether my son/daughter is eligible for special education or Section 504 services?
Yes, the ApaCenter conducts evaluations that can help determine whether a student is eligible for special education or Section 504 services. Since a number of ApaCenter Associates are also LSSPs (Licensed Specialists in School Psychology), we are able to conduct our assessments and write our reports in a way that meets the needs of schools. Also, we are knowledgeable about the laws and rules governing special education and Section 504 services, and this enables us to serve as advocates for parents and students. Although our assessments are designed to establish whether a disability exists and whether there is an educational need for services, at the primary and secondary school levels, a team consisting of school staff and a parent must decide whether a student is eligible for special education services. Regarding Section 504 services, schools and colleges are ultimately in charge of deciding whether a student is eligible for services. Although the ApaCenter cannot guarantee that a school district or college will accept our findings and recommendations, we have had a great deal of success with schools and colleges accepting our results since we are knowledgeable about how to conduct assessments that meet their criteria.
My son/daughter had an evaluation for special education services at the school, and I disagree with the results. Can the ApaCenter help with this?
If your son or daughter receives an evaluation by his/her school to determine eligibility for special education services, and you disagree with the results, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for which the school district will pay. You can choose who does the evaluation. This IEE must be requested in writing and documented at the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meeting when the results of the school district’s evaluation are reviewed. The IEE can be requested if you disagree with the results of the school’s initial evaluation or their re-evaluation. The ApaCenter’s Licensed Psychologists are also Licensed Specialists in School Psychology (LSSPs). So, we are able to conduct evaluations that will meet your needs as well as the school’s standards for acceptability. ApaCenter psychologists know how to advocate for parent and student rights and interests and can communicate with schools in an effective manner.
What are special education services?
According to the Education of All Handicapped Children Individuals with Disabilities of 1975 (later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA), all children are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Thus, children who are identified as having a disability and an educational need for services are entitled to accommodations to ensure FAPE. The law provides funding for state and local education agencies to guarantee the provision of special education and related services for students who meet eligibility criteria.
Special education services are offered to children who demonstrate an educational need for services and possess one or more of the following disabilities: specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation), emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments (e.g., ADD/ADHD).
What are 504 services?
Some students with special needs do not receive special education services under IDEA, but can receive services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 instead. Section 504 is a civil rights law similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of disabling conditions by programs and activities receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance. Although schools are required to offer services and accommodations under Section 504, this statute does not require the federal government to provide additional funding for students identified with special needs. Under the rulings of Section 504, schools must provide students identified as eligible for Section 504 services with reasonable accommodations in order to “level the playing field” with their non-disabled peers. For example, a student with dyslexia or ADD/ADHD might need extended time on tests.
What is the difference between special education and 504 services?
The differences between special education and Section 504 services are many and a bit confusing. Both special education and Section 504 services require students to meet eligibility criteria based on: (1) an educational need for services, and (2) the presence of a disability. In general, students with mild disabilities and/or mild educational needs are more often served under Section 504 while students with more severe disabilities and/or greater educational needs are served through special education. Special education provides a greater number and more comprehensive services than Section 504. Here is a table comparing some of the differences between Section 504 and special education:
|Area||Section 504||Special Education|
|Ages served||Throughout the life span- college included.||Ages 3-21. No special education services at the college level|
|Identification & Eligibility||Evaluations for determination of eligibility draw upon a number of sources. Schools do not typically do any standardized testing.||Requires that the student be fully and comprehensively evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. Standardized testing is provided by trained school staff.|
|__||Student is re-evaluated periodically to determine continued eligibility, but school typically does not do any standardized testing.||Student is re-evaluated every 3 years by the school, which can include standardized testing. However, standardized testing is not required for every re-evaluation.|
|__||No provisions made for independent evaluation at the expense of the school district or college.||Provides for an independent evaluation at the district’s expense if parents disagree with first evaluation|
|Responsibility to provide FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education)||Requires a plan for accommodations, but guidelines for service delivery are more loosely defined, followed, and enforced.||Requires a comprehensive individualized educational plan (IEP) that describes goals, measurable objectives, timelines, and accommodations|
|__||Usually all services are provided in a regular classroom.||Services can be a combination of regular education and special education classrooms.|
|Parental Rights||Fewer rules and laws to protect parents’ rights.||Extensive rules and laws designed to protect parents’ rights.|