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Expert Q&A

A doctor believes that my child has a learning disability, but his school will not evaluate his case. What should I do?

My son was classified in pre-k as preschool handicapped. He was declassified in kindergarten, but the school gave him a 504 plan. He gets speech, OT, and PT in school. He is now in first grade. His writing is poor, and it takes him two days to copy two sentences. In September I asked the school to re-evaluate him to see if he now would qualify for an IEP through the child study team.

In January, the case manager called me for a meeting, where I was asked to take my son for a pediatric neuro evaluation. I did this within 2 days of this meeting, by just pure luck of getting him in a cancellation spot. The neurodevelopmental pediatrician evaluated my son, looked at all evaluation summaries from pre-k, and said that the school should now re-evaluate him again because he is positive at this time his scores will qualify him to be classified. He said my son is dysgraphic, and that was all so far. I have not received his report, yet; but he told me before I left to write a letter requesting the child study team to re-evaluate my son.

When I told my son’s case worker that I needed to deliver a letter to her and what it was for, she told me this doctor does not know the codes and is wrong. I have a hard time believing this. I feel as though I need to listen to the doctor who evaluated my son over her, and feel I should submit this letter even if it upsets the school. Is this the right thing to do?

Dear Donna:

First, many people do get confused, including doctors, because the clinical criteria for disabilities and the educational criteria for disabilities are often overlapping but not the same. Thus, a clinical diagnosis does not automatically mean that there is sufficient basis for an educational label of disability. However, the doctor’s evaluation cannot be ignored by the school. It must be considered, and the school must provide you the reasons that they feel an evaluation is not needed. Further, you have a right to request an evaluation at any time.

The doctor’s recommendation provides further support for your request but is not a necessity for making the request. It does give you more support for the request. If the school is not willing to honor your written request, they are supposed to 1) give you a written explanation that they are denying the request, 2) explain the reason they are denying the request, and 3) explain your right to request a hearing to challenge their refusal to conduct the evaluation. If you give them a written request and they do not do this, they are in violation of the law.

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