Aug 022013

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Q: My school says they won’t test my child because she is making passing grades. We think our child needs help. What are the rules for special education eligibility?


By IDEA laws (Federal), if anyone “suspects” a child has a disability and requests a comprehensive psychological evaluation in writing, the school MUST evaluate the child to determine if the child has a disability.

The referral does not have to come from the school. A parent CAN request an evaluation for learning disabilities. Special education eligibility is NOT dependent upon classroom grades or the movement from grade-to-grade.

Special Education Eligibility Evaluation Timeframes

According to IDEA, an evaluation must occur “within 60 days of receiving parental consent for the evaluation; or If the State establishes a timeframe within which the evaluation must be conducted, within that timeframe.” 

In Georgia, a child must be tested for special education eligibility within 60 days of the written permission to test. However, some states require evaluations in a shorter timeframe.  I suggest checking the special education eligibility laws through your state’s Department of Education.

Your school cannot simply say testing your child is “not a priority” or that they don’t think your child has a disability.

Our school told us because our child was making C’s they didn’t “see a need” for reading services.  I told them I didn’t care if our son was making A’s -he couldn’t read. We suspected dyslexia! Special education eligibility is based upon the presence of a disability, not upon teacher-given grades.

When our son was evaluated, he did indeed have dyslexia. He met the criteria for special education eligibility.

IDEA laws say “it is important to clarify that a child suspected of having a disability but who has not failed, is making academic progress, and is passing from grade to grade must be considered in the child find process as any other child suspected of having a disability.  As noted earlier in the discussion regarding Sec. 300.101, paragraph (c)(1) of Sec. 300.111 has been revised to clarify that children do not have to fail or be retained in a course or grade in order to be considered for special education and related services.” (See Discussion at IDEA.ED.Gov)

Familiarize yourself with legal requirements for special education eligibility. You can learn a lot about IEPs through our Free IEP training at You can also learn the legal requirements through,, and your state’s department of education special education eligibility rules.

MANY, MANY school administrators and teachers are mis-informed or uninformed regarding special education eligibility. They mistakenly think that if a child is passing, there is no need for special services. They personally hold to a ‘failure first’ philosophy, which is prohibited by IDEA. Not to mention, a “failure first” approach to special education eligibility is a form of educational neglect as I have written about.

We were able to file a successful due process case against our school system regarding special education eligibility. Take heart, if your daughter needs help.. you can probably get help, but it may not be an easy battle (and it is a battle when the school doesn’t think services are necessary and they refuse to evaluate your child). We got our own private evaluation. Unfortunately, our school STILL wouldn’t provide services because of the passing grades, so we had to file due process. The school admins were MISTAKEN in thinking classroom grades were an adequate measure of a child’s special education eligibility. Classroom grades SURELY don’t indicate the absence or presence of a learning disability.

I hope this information about special education eligibility helps. It isn’t an easy road to get services from schools that fight against parents. Just know, parents are often the first to see their child is struggling and needing help. It is always worthwhile to get help for your child as soon as possible. Hopefully you can get help before the advanced academics of middle or high school catch up with your child and cause failure.

IDEA says Failure is NOT a requirement for a child to meet special education eligibility for receiving services. The goal of IDEA is to provide proactive educational services… So, GO FOR IT! 

special education eligibility

Your child needs you to be his advocate!

You might find the book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy – The Special Education Survival Guide helpful in your pursuit of special education eligibility. The book was invaluable to me in going to battle with our school.

Best Wishes,

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