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Robin P. Church

Question:

I am trying to find any resources to help my daughter. She is in first grade at a private school. Her teacher has expressed concern over my daughter’s grades, especially in reading and writing. I am trying to find the best route to get her tested. Everything I have seen is extremely out of price range. I am not sure if I am missing any resources that we can benefit from. Where can I go to get affordable testing?

Answer:

Teachers in the early grades are often the best predictors of which students are truly struggling and may need additional support to succeed academically. While there is a broad range of normal development when it comes to learning to read and write, teachers who are experienced with first graders usually have a very strong sense of which students need to be watched closely.

The first thing I would recommend is a meeting with the teacher to get more specifics regarding the teacher’s concerns along with some examples of work product that demonstrate those concerns. I would ask if there is a reading specialist at the school that could evaluate your daughter, and perhaps provide some extra one-on-one instruction to gain insight into her needs and to look for signs that further testing is needed.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes the Child Find mandate. Schools are required to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age 21. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

The Child Find mandate applies to all children who reside within a State, including:

  • children who attend private schools and public schools,
  • highly mobile children,
  • migrant children,
  • homeless children, and
  • children who are wards of the state.

This includes all children who are suspected of having a disability, including children who receive passing grades and are “advancing from grade to grade.” (34 CFR 300.111(c)) The law does not require children to be “labeled” or classified by their disability. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3)(B); 34 CFR 300.111(d)).

If the private school your child attends cannot provide an evaluation, you should contact child find office of the local public school system your child would be attending, and request that they complete an evaluation to determine if your daughter has a learning disability. Such an evaluation must be provided by the local school system at no cost to the parent.

Robin P. Church, Ed.D.
Dr. Church is currently the Senior Vice President for Educational Programs and Executive Director of School Programs at The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore; as well as Associate Professor of Education at The Johns Hopkins University.