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Special Education: Requesting an eligibility evaluation

Updated 16 October 2021
Published 28 July 2017
…A parent or public agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if a child [has] a disability.…
  1. An initial evaluation must be conducted to determine if a child is eligible for special education services when a [school] suspects or has reason to suspect that:
    1. The child has a disability that has an adverse impact on the child’s educational performance; and
    2. The child may need special education services as a result of the disability.
  2. The [school] must designate a team to determine whether an initial evaluation will be conducted.
    1. The team must include the parent and at least two professionals….
    2. The team may make this decision without a meeting. If a meeting is held, parents must be invited to participate….

[Schools must respond] promptly to requests initiated by a parent or public agency for an initial evaluation to determine [special education eligibility].

It can take a long time to get a Special Education evaluation for IEP eligibility from your school. In Oregon, schools have 60 school days to complete an evaluation after a parent consents. If a parent requests an evaluation, the parent has to wait for the school to decide to offer an evaluation, which the school might not offer right away. Once the school decides to offer an evaluation, the school schedules a meeting to obtain your consent. Then, the school has 60 school days to complete the evaluation. That’s quite likely well over 3 months.

An initial evaluation must be completed within 60 school days from written parent consent to the date of the meeting to consider eligibility.… An evaluation may be completed in more than 60 school days under the following circumstances…:

  1. The parents of a child repeatedly fail or refuse to produce the child for an evaluation, or for other circumstances outside the school district's control.
  2. The student is a transfer student in the process of evaluation and the district and the parents agree in writing to a different length of time to complete the evaluation…;
  3. The district and the parents agree in writing to extend the timeline for an evaluation to determine eligibility for specific learning disabilities ….

I encourage you to know your rights, which the Oregon Department of Education reviews in their Procedural Safeguards Notice. I recommend you make your request for an evaluation in writing with clear requests, your signature, and the date, so there are no misunderstandings that might delay the process (see Parent Request Template below).

Parent Request Template

[full name of parent]
[address of parent]


[name of school]
[address of school]

To whom it may concern,

I am [full name of your child]’s parent. My child has been struggling at school. [Provide detailed information about your concerns, using supporting evidence such as test scores, teacher communications, work samples, etc.]

I have been working with [name of your child’s teacher(s)] to help my child, and [I have not seen any improvement or the problems have been getting worse]. [Describe any interventions that were tried, including after-school tutoring, differentiated or small-group instruction, response to intervention (RtI) and informal accommodations in the classroom]

Therefore, I am writing to formally request that my child be evaluated for special education services under the Child Find obligations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

I look forward to working with you within the next 10 school days to develop an assessment plan to begin the evaluation process. Please ensure that I receive copies of assessment results two days before any meeting because I cannot effectively inspect and review the records unless I receive those copies. Thank you very much for your help.


Signature of Parent

You can follow the typical paths from an evaluation to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in the infographic below from Understood.org and titled IEP Roadmap: How Kids Get Special Education.

© Understood.org | unendorsed cropped infographic used by invitation to download and share

The following table provides descriptions of disability categories of Special Education eligibility adapted from the Oregon Administrative Rules.

Oregon Disability Category Description
Communication Disorder speech and language disorders
Developmental Delay a child ages 3-9 years old with delays that are at or below the 7th percentile (i.e., 1.5 standard deviations or more below the mean) in two or more of the following areas: cognitive development; physical development; communication development; social or emotional development; and adaptive development
Specific Learning Disability inadequate achievement for their age or grade in basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, mathematics problem-solving, written expression, oral expression, or listening comprehension (when provided with appropriate instruction and that is not primarily the result of a visual impairment, hearing impairment, motor impairment, intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, cultural factors, environmental or economic disadvantage, or limited English proficiency) with a) insufficient progress in response to intervention or b) a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in classroom performance, academic achievement, or both, relative to age, grade, or intellectual development
Intellectual Disability intelligence test score at or below the 2nd percentile (i.e., 2 standard deviations or more below the mean); deficits in adaptive behavior; and developmental level or educational achievement that is significantly below age or grade norms
Other Health Impairment limited strength, vitality or alertness (including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment) that is due to a chronic or acute health problem (that is permanent or expected to last for more than 60 calendar days). Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might qualify for Special Education under this category or for accommodations and modifications under Section 504.
Autism Spectrum Disorder developmental disability involving impairments in communication; impairments in social interaction; patterns of behavior, interests or activities that are restricted, repetitive, or stereotypic; and unusual responses to sensory experiences
Emotional Disturbance an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems
Traumatic Brain Injury physical brain injury resulting in impairment in communication; behavior; cognition, memory, attention, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, reasoning, and/or information processing; or sensory, perceptual, motor and/or physical abilities (that is permanent or expected to last for more than 60 calendar days)
Orthopedic Impairment motor impairment with deficits in the quality, speed or accuracy of movement documented by scores at or below the 2nd percentile (i.e., 2 or more standard deviations below the mean) in fine motor skills, gross motor skills, or self-help skills, or functional deficits in at least two of these three motor areas (that is permanent or expected to last for more than 60 calendar days)
Hearing Impairment hearing condition characterized by being hard of hearing or deaf
Vision Impairment residual visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye with correction, visual field restricted to 20 degrees or less in the better eye, eye pathology or progressive eye disease expected to reduce residual acuity or visual field, or inadequate use of residual vision

Table is adapted from Oregon Administrative Rules, Chapter 581, Division 15 and is not intended to be a primary source of information.

[Schools] must comply with a parent’s request to inspect and review records without unnecessary delay and…before any meeting regarding an IEP….

It is…important to ensure that parents have the information they need to participate meaningfully in IEP Team meetings, which may include reviewing their child’s records.…It would be appropriate for parents to review documents related to the determination of eligibility prior to the eligibility determination….

Your right to inspect and review education records includes:

  1. Your right to a response from the school…to your reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of the records;
  2. Your right to request that the school…provide copies of the records if you cannot effectively inspect and review the records unless you receive those copies; and
  3. Your right to have your representative inspect and review the records.

Parents are important members of teams that determine Special Education eligibility and create Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); it’s important that you’re able to participate meaningfully in meetings about your child. Therefore, I encourage you to request copies of records to review before meetings (see the last paragraph of the Parent Request Template above).

You…may request a due process hearing on any matter relating to a proposal or a refusal to initiate or change the identification, evaluation or educational placement of your child….

If you have problems, you may be able to file a request for a due process hearing, as described in the Procedural Safeguards Notice, and the Oregon Department of Education provides a Due Process Hearing Request form. You might find that you need to learn more about Special Education to advocate for your child. FACT Oregon is a local non-profit that aims to help Oregonians who need Special Education, and WrightsLaw.com also provides information about Special Education. Nolo offers a couple books that can help you understand more. All of this information is certainly not a substitute for personalized advice from a knowledgeable lawyer. If you want or need the help of a trained professional, consult an attorney licensed to practice in your state.