Be sure to visit our Evaluation and Eligibility webpage for more resources on this topic. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Search the bigger A-Z list or contact us.

  • Special Education and Eligibility During COVID-19 This video explains when and why a parent might seek an evaluation of their child for special education supports, how the process works, and what might look different during the pandemic. We cover important terms parents need to know, like REED, Notice, and IEE, and what to do if you disagree.

Does my child need special education services?

Some children have more difficulty learning than others. Your child has a right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). If you have concerns about your child’s education, you can ask the school district where you live to evaluate him/her to see if they qualify for special education services. Special education supports and services are written into a yearly plan called the Individualized Education Program (IEP). As a parent, you are an expert on your child and it’s important that your voice is heard during this process.

For students already receiving special education services, eligibility must be reviewed every three years.

What is the first step?

Evaluation is the beginning step in the special education process. Before a child can receive services, a full initial evaluation must be conducted. Informed parent consent must be given before the evaluation can be started. Evaluations are provided at no cost to the parent. All areas of suspected disability should be assessed.

What does an evaluation mean for my child?

Evaluations are very important. The information/data from evaluation determines if your child is eligible for services. His or her school program will be based on evaluations. The evaluation describes a child’s strengths and needs. If the evaluation is not accurate, the IEP may not meet your child’s needs.

How do I start the evaluation process?

Write a letter requesting a comprehensive evaluation for special education eligibility. Here are two sample letters you can refer to (Disability Rights Michigan Sample Letter or Parent Center Hub Sample Letter). Keep a copy for your records. If your child is already in school, send a copy of this letter to your child’s teacher and the building principal.  

Parents with younger children can start the evaluation process with these organizations:

Can the school deny an evaluation request?

Districts have a Child Find responsibility to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities.

If the school refuses to evaluate, you have to be notified in writing. After receiving Notice, parents have the option to dispute the decision via a State Complaint.

How long is an evaluation supposed to take?

Michigan has set timelines that are very specific. The school must obtain your permission to extend a timeline.

The school wants to look at existing information.  What does this mean?

A Review of Existing Evaluation Data (REED) is the process of looking at what information is already available (stuff like: developmental history, discipline records, report cards, standard state and district testing).

Can a child with passing grades be eligible?

A student does not have to fail to be eligible for special education.

The school wants to try Response to Intervention (RTI) first.  What does that mean?

RTI  is an early intervention strategy within general education and is also one way to identify students who need special education services. RTI cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation.

What happens when the evaluations are done?

When the evaluations are done, the Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) holds a meeting to look at the data/results, and determine if the child meets the eligibility requirements. The MET team will make a recommendation for eligibility. The MET report then will be presented to the IEP team. This can happen at the same meeting or it may be a separate meeting.

What are the requirements for eligibility?

Michigan has 13 educational labels with specific eligibility requirements. A team can consider more than one category. The specific requirements are part of our state rules for special education. (Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education- MARSE).

What if I disagree with the results of the school’s evaluation?

If you disagree with the results, you have a right to have someone outside of the school evaluate your child. This is called an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE).

What if there is a need for additional assessments?

Sometimes a child has needs are not addressed by the current IEP. This may be because that area of  need was not identified in an evaluation. If something is missing in the IEP, it is important to look at the PLAAFP statement to see if that specific area of need was actually identified and evaluated.

Parents can request additional evaluations be done if there are concerns that areas of need are not being identified and addressed. The same timelines apply.

I have private evaluations completed. Can we use these reports to determine eligibility?

Michigan law requires school districts, upon request, to complete an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. The availability of privately completed assessments does not excuse the school from this requirement (The Difference Between School Identification and Clinical Diagnosis from Understood.org). Parents can bring  additional reports/evaluations to share with the evaluation team, but the written request and school evaluations/assessments still need to take place.

My child is eligible to receive special education services. What’s next?

Through the development of an IEP, parents and the school will come to an agreement on what services and supports the child needs. A short overview of special education is available, and look at the Michigan Alliance for Families IEP page.

  • We also have an On Demand Webinar about After the Evaluation, Eligible (video is also available at the bottom of this page).

My child is not eligible to receive special education services.  Now what?

You may consider a Section 504 plan, this is a written plan for students who require accommodations to be successful in the classroom. It is not specialized instruction. 

Parents also have the right to file a State Complaint or request a Due Process hearing.

This webinar is also available: After the Evaluation, Not Eligible.

How is social maladjustment considered in the evaluation process?

When considering eligibility for a student who has challenging behaviors, questions often arise regarding the presence of a social maladjustment or characteristics of a social maladjustment. Evaluation teams need to first consider whether a student meets the criteria of an emotional disturbance/impairment. If the student meets emotional impairment criteria, any perceived evidence of social maladjustment does not impact the eligibility determination.

My child has an IEP and is due for a 3 year re-eval. Do the same rules apply?

For students who receive special education services, eligibility status is reviewed every three years. Reevaluation is required unless the parent and the district agree that re-evaluation is not necessary. This process of re-determining eligibility includes a Review of Existing Evaluation Data (REED) to decide what evaluations should be done. The same timelines for completing the evaluation apply, as well as the right to an IEE. The Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) will determine if the child still meets eligibility criteria.

Even if no additional data is needed to decide that the child is still eligible, there may be a need for more evaluation data and recommendations on the details of the child’s educational needs and services. Don’t wait to request a re-evaluation, ask for one when your child’s situation changes.

What are the implications of changing my child’s eligibility label?

IEP services are not tied to a label. Once a child is determined to be eligible for services, all of their needs have to be addressed. It’s most important for the IEP to have a full picture of a student, that’s why a comprehensive evaluation is important. An IEP label should not be changed to reduce or remove the services a student needs to be successful.

Parents can ask questions like:

  • Why is the evaluation necessary? For example: has the child’s service needs, achievement, or performance changed?
  • What is the evaluation plan?
  • What evaluations will be completed and by who?
  • What is the child’s present level of academic achievement and related developmental needs?

My child goes to private school, does this change things?

A child enrolled in a non-public school can obtain an evaluation. We also have more information available about non-public schools.

What if English is our second language?

Often it is difficult to distinguish students with learning disabilities from students who struggle because of language barriers. It’s important to first assess the instructional program. This whole website can be translated by using the “TRANSLATE” button in the black toolbar at the bottom of each webpage. Also available:

What about children/youth in foster care?

Children/youth experiencing foster care can face extra hurdles when seeking an evaluation, especially when understanding the “Parental Consent” requirement. IDEA defines “parent” as:

  • A biological or adoptive parent
  • A foster parent
  • A guardian
  • A person acting as a parent (such as a caregiver relative who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare)
  • A surrogate parent who has been appointed by the school

In situations involving foster parents, the biological parent is presumed to be the parent with the authority to consent to evaluations unless the court has assigned the authority to someone else.

Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) has added an additional rule that includes a student/youth with a disability who has reached 18 years old, if a legal guardian has not been appointed by the court.

There are protections in IDEA that ensure the rights of children who are eligible or suspected to be eligible for special education services when a: 

  • parent can’t be identified
  • the school cannot locate parent
  • A child is the ward of the state.
  • the child is an unaccompanied homeless youth (which means a youth not in physical custody of a parent or guardian and lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence)- In the situation of an unaccompanied homeless youth, a surrogate parent must be appointed

What if I have more questions?

Contact us at 1-800-552-4821 or info@michiganallianceforfamilies.org

Eligibility and Evaluation – from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series

After the Evaluation, Eligible – from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series

After the Evaluation, Not Eligible– from the Michigan Alliance for Families Webinar Series


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