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By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
It's important to remember that eligibility is a two-pronged decision. Those involved must decide (1) does the student have a disability, in this case SLD, and (2) because of the impact of that disability, does the student need special education in order to benefit from instruction? It is possible that a student might be found to have a disability, such as SLD, but not to need special education to benefit from instruction.
Drawing upon all of the information provided by the evaluations and other forms of information, the group (the student's parents and qualified professionals) must develop written documentation of their determination of the presence of SLD and eligibility for special education. The documentation must contain statements explaining the group's findings with regard to Steps 1-4. Documentation must also show that the student's parents were fully notified about the policies, strategies, and services provided as part of an intervention process, such as RTI, including the parent's right to request a formal evaluation as prescribed by IDEA at any point during an intervention process.
Each member participating in the determination must provide written certification that the documentation reflects the member's conclusion. If any member(s) disagree with the conclusion, a statement of that member(s) conclusion must also be included in the documentation.
Parents must be given a copy of the evaluation report and the documentation of determination at no cost. If parents disagree with the determination, they may seek resolution through the dispute resolution provisions of IDEA. These provisions are part of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards that must be provided to parents prior to the evaluation of a student suspected of having a disability.
IDEA 2004 federal regulations instruct every state to develop criteria to be used throughout the state for determining whether a student has a specific learning disability. While much of the detail of such criteria is left up to each individual state, the criteria:
Beyond these requirements, states are free to establish criteria that might, in fact, prohibit the use of an ability-achievement discrepancy. Given this state-level flexibility, parents will need to closely follow their state's policies for SLD identification. For more information about your state's policies and procedures, parents are urged to communicate with:
Updated January 2010
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