Qualifying For Special Education and Academic Need

I have evaluated thousands of children over a 15 year period for special education eligibility. As a school psychologist, we are at the front lines when it comes to making the decision of whether your son or daughter will receive special education services. However, the real question you need to ask yourself is; “Does your son or daughter NEED special education services.”Often I evaluate students who exhibit a great deal of variability among their WISC-IV or Stanford-Binet IQ subtests. This in itself is a red flag for the presence of a learning disability. However, once the Woodcock-Johnson III achievement test results are analyzed does one realize that the child is still able to learn and “get by” despite the possible presence of a learning disability.This “get by” state of being is where the sticky issue presents itself to most parents. Most parents aren’t satisfied with their child just “getting by” in their respective school. I would also like to remind most parents that most teachers are not satisfied with their students just getting by either. However, the law is the deciding factor in this case.By law a student must present an educational need in order to qualify for special education placement. If the need is not there then the child doesn’t qualify. Now, the need is most often determined by the results of a standardized achievement test. Usually the WJ-III, as mentioned above. If a student is exhibiting poor grades and average WJ-III scores it is most often that the student is either not completing their homework, is a behavior problem, or is missing a great deal of school. This may be due to their disability especially if they are experiencing health problems. In these cases it is most often that students are placed in what is called 504 placement and is specifically designed for students with health problems.This leads me to the other options available to parents when it comes to placement in special education. Parents may wish to consult with their family physician in order to explore the possibility of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This diagnosis may allow your child to be placed in a 504 placement or as an other health impaired student, which is an alternative special education placement that does not require a significant discrepancy between intelligence and achievement. However, all placements in special education require an academic need.