What Do I Do If My Son Can't Get Into Special Ed?

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist


What options do parents have in advocating for their child's educational needs?

My son was evaluated by the school, and it was concluded that he met two of the three requirements needed to qualify for special education. Since he did not meet all three components, the school does not feel responsible for supplying any form of remediation, although it was evident my son would benefit from a reading tutor or other remedial reading assistance.

It's as if my son being classified and or labeled as "normal" gives him no "rights." Please advise.


If you feel that the results of the evaluation are inaccurate and your son does in fact meet the requirements for special education, you may want to have him evaluated independently.

This option may be costly, but it could provide you with a more thorough evaluation of your son's learning needs and potentially, the documentation necessary for him to qualify for special education services.

Another option is to advocate for any classroom modifications, tutoring or other services the school may be able to offer your son even though he does not qualify for special education. Your son does have a right to learn regardless of whether or not he qualifies for special education. If you are having a difficult time advocating for your son's needs, you may want to get some extra help through a local parent advocacy such as the Learning Disabilities Association of America. These centers are typically staffed by parent advocates who can accompany you to school meetings to help you get the services you need for your son.

If, despite your best efforts and assistance from an advocacy center, you are unable to get the school to provide your son with additional reading assistance, you should consider hiring a private reading tutor. Again, this could be a costly option, but it is essential for your son to get the reading help he needs as soon as possible.

Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.


Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.