I think that my child has some special needs. What should I do first?

Have you asked yourself this question? Have you seen things in your child’s behavior or interactions that concern you? Is your child struggling with school concepts or reading and no one else seems to be noticing? Are you unsure of where to start or what to do?

Here are a few steps to help you get started:

  • Start writing down specific observations of the behaviors that concern you. Be as detailed as you can include dates, times and anything that happened prior to the behavior. This will help you see any patterns and aid in discussions with health care professionals.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Not all pediatricians are as knowledgeable in the area of special needs, so if you feel that you need someone who has a lot of experience look for a Developmental Pediatrician in your area.
  • Contact an Early Intervention service. Your pediatrician can advise you of ones closest to you, or you can search in your local area.
  • As for a referral. Your child’s Pediatrician can refer you to a specialist for a more in-depth evaluation.
  • If your child is age 3 to 21 years old contact your local school district and request an IEP evaluation. They can’t say no. If you feel there is concern, make a request in writing to your principal and the District’s Director of Special Education.  The school must look into it prepare an assessment plan. Once you agree to and sign an assessment plan, they will be completed, and a meeting will be called to discuss the findings (the “IEP”).
  • NOTE: If your school has a protocol to assemble a Student Study Team (“SST”), you should participate in this, but remember that this does not take the place of the ASSESSMENT PLAN — your request for assessment stands, and should proceed in parallel to the SST, unless you formally withdraw your request for assessment.  Even upon the SST recommendation to proceed in a certain manner (with 504 accommodations, or something else), your right to have the assessments completed and the IEP held, remain in place.

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