Getting a referral

If your child is in school, their teacher or other school staff can make the referral for the evaluation.

But you can also do it yourself.

No matter who is making the referral, it's important to put this in writing! This will help you keep track of when you made the request and who it was sent to.

Here's what you can you do:

  • If your child is in school: ask their teacher.

  • If your child is not yet in school: contact the Director ofSpecial Education in your school district. Tell them you would like to request a special education evaluation.

  • Ask for a copy of the referral. Make sure it has a date.

  • Ask questions! If there's anything you don't understand, ask them to clarify it for you.

Note: You can still request an evaluation even if the school is trying some interventions to see if they help your child learn. (These usually happen through a process called RTI- click the box below to learn more).

Response to Intervention (RTI) is an approach to help students in the classroom before referring them for special education services.

  • RTI has different levels of interventions, such as using reward systems or making tasks easier.

  • The teacher will start with the lowest level and move up to a higher level if there are no changes in your child's behavior or learning.

  • If the interventions don't help, then the school will refer your child for an evaluation.

The goal of RTI is to help identify students who need special education services in school, and also prevent unnecessary labeling of students who don't.

Here's what you can do:

  • If the RTI interventions are not helping your child, talk to their teacher.

  • Ask for an evaluation. You can do this while the RTI interventions are going on.

  • Don't wait too long.The interventions can last up to 8 weeks, but you don't have to wait until the end.

Source: RTI Action Network

What happens next?

  • Once the school district gets your request, they will send you a form to sign to give consent (permission) for the evaluation.(They should do this within5 school days of getting the referral.)

  • They also must give you a copy of this 15-page notice, which describes the whole process and your legal rights: Parent's Notice of Procedural Safeguards. (Click on it to open it in a new window. Click here to find this notice in other languages.)

  • After you sign the consent form, the school will schedule the evaluation. (They should do this within 30 school days.)

Know your rights: The law requires school districts to refer children for an evaluation if they suspect the child might benefit from special education services.

See the next page in the menu to learn more about your rights.

Sources: EOHHS, Family TIES of MA