Why it Matters:

Public schools are required to provide specialized educational support if a child has a developmental delay that interferes with their ability to learn. If you have chosen to send your child to public school, seek a special education evaluation. The school will evaluate your child in all areas possibly related to their disability, including speaking, hearing, vision, physical, social, behavioral, and academic skills to determine what help/support they think your child needs.

Actions to Take:

Schedule evaluation. Contact your local elementary school and ask for your child to be evaluated for special education services by saying “I have concerns about my child’s development and I would like to have my child evaluated to find out if they are eligible for special education services.”

  • Tip: Your child is eligible for services even if they are in private school. There are federal and local laws that protect disabled students’ right to an equal education.
  • Tip: Submit a written request (e.g., an email or letter). A written request will allow you to begin a legal, formal timeline. Every school has its own procedures, so ask the contact person you speak with for specifics.

After the evaluation, your program will let you know if your child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a set of services provided by your school to help your child achieve their education goals.

  • Tip: If your child does not qualify, you can ask your school to evaluate your child for a 504 plan. This article provides more information about the differences between IEPs and 504s.
  • Tip: Many parents choose to work with a professional to help them navigate this process. You can find a local IEP Advocate by searching for “Special Education Advocates” in the Beaming Directory or contacting your local parent center.

Learn more: What Happens After I Request a Special Education Evaluation?

Keep in mind: The results of the school’s evaluation may be different than your child’s medical diagnosis. It’s also important to remember that school is NOT the final say on your child’s potential. They may offer very little support to your child, underestimate their abilities, or disagree with you on what support your child needs. You will probably need to advocate for the services and support you believe your child needs.