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By Linda Broatch, M.A.
Schools have different procedures for deciding when to formally evaluate a student for learning disabilities. Regardless of the school's formal evaluation process, you have a legal right at any time (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to ask the school to formally evaluate your child for learning disabilities (LD). If the school declines your request, they must give you their reasons for doing so, in writing. On the other hand, if the school wishes to formally evaluate your child for LD, they must have your written permission to do so.
Once the formal evaluation process begins, the school will provide you a document describing parents' rights and responsibilities. Under IDEA, parents are full and equal members of the teams that evaluate the student and determine whether he's eligible for special education services; your questions and knowledge are essential to this work.
Unfortunately, there's no ideal method to distinguish between a learning disability and problems associated with learning to speak, read, and write in English. However, researchers and educators have come up with evaluation practices they believe are effective in getting ELL students the academic help they need. Don't hesitate to share this information with your child's school.
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