Before 2004, children who were struggling in school or had any type of learning disability, were automatically relegated to a "wait to fail before we intercede" philosophy.

But that all changed with IDEA 2004 which required schools to implement Response to Intervention (RTI). Ideally, RTI identifies children who are at risk for learning disabilities and requiring the school to addresses these issues at onset.

Parents Should Know About RTI:

Tier 1 Support– Three times a year, beginning in kindergarten, all children are screened by the school to identify those who may be at risk for learning disabilities. Typically, if a child is identified as performing at the 25th percentile or below in reading, math, or writing, he or she is considered for Tier 2 support.

Tier 2 Support– If a child is designated as Tier 2, they are provided fairly intensive regular education (small group support) for approximately six to 12 weeks to help bring their performance up to grade level. Progress is monitored at least two times per month and children who do not make expected gains are considered for Tier 3 support.

Tier 3 Support– Academic support is offered in different ways with greater intensity and frequency to assist children most at risk for learning disabilities to help them reach grade level expectations. Progress is monitored more frequently, typically on a weekly basis. Consideration for special education support is given to children who do not respond to this level of support.

When Special Education Eligibility Occurs

The evaluation to determine special education eligibility may occur at any tier, though it most often occurs within Tier 3 (when a student does not respond to the most intensive interventions).

If a parent requests a special education evaluation, the school district is required to respond to the request in writing within 14 school days, notifying the parent whether the request has been accepted or denied and the reasons for that decision.

Educational evaluations performed by the school involve a review of the child’s current performance levels and need for additional data in the following areas:

  • Hearing/Vision
  • Health
  • Academic Achievement
  • Cognitive Ability
  • Speech/Language and Communication Skills
  • Motor Skills
  • Social Skills

It is important to note that this type of evaluation will not include a medical diagnosis, which can be essential for parents to determine the type of services and support their child will need throughout their education and lives. To receive an evaluation that includes a medical diagnosis, parents must work with a private evaluator.

If You Can, Get a Private Evaluation

Private evaluations are typically conducted by psychologists (clinical, neuro, or educational) who take into account the underlying clinical and medical contributions to a child’s educational performance.

In addition to assessing basic cognitive skills, an evaluator may perform additional neuropsychological testing to understand how a child’s neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses impact his or her functioning both in the classroom and in the real world.

Essentially, school evaluations focus on the ‘what’ and private evaluations focus on the ‘why’, while both seek to generate solutions to the problems.

A large part of helping students with learning disabilities get the educational resources they need start at home. Reading Horizons offers free assessments to help you to get started.

Knowledge is power. Get some for your children.

Source: By Deana Khoshaba, Psy.D, Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services, Department of Developmental Education, Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital