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Expert Q&A

Our son will be entering a new school system, and we want to make sure he recieves special education services immediately. Is there a way to arrange this before he starts school?

Our son, who is now about 13 years old, is not progressing in school. We think he has a learning disability but have been unable to obtain any educational testing or assessment data from psychologists. We currently live with our son and other children in Pakistan and have found that there is not a system for working with children with LD here. However, our son is a U.S. citizen, so we are planning to have him move back to the states with family.

We are wondering how we get the initial referral to begin the special education process at his new school if he does not yet live in the U.S. Is this possible?

When a child is entering a new school system, the parents or guardian may immediately request an evaluation for special education. However, the public school is not automatically required to conduct an evaluation. The more information that can be provided to the school to support the need for the evaluation, the more likely they are to agree to the evaluation. This is especially important in situations such as yours, as schools are not as likely to conduct an evaluation when there is no prior history of difficulty in an American public school.

One important step to improve the likelihood that the school will agree to an evaluation is to obtain a comprehensive independent evaluation to document your child’s problems. The school is required to consider this evaluation but is not required to accept its findings. As a result of the new requirement that schools consider whether inadequate instruction may be the cause of the learning problem, schools are now far more likely to defer evaluation until after the student has received a period of intensive specialized intervention in regular education (Response to Intervention — RTI). This makes it harder to secure immediate evaluation in situations such as yours and makes any evidence of prior problems and unsuccessful efforts to address these problems especially important.

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