***Post written by Scott McGuire, Elections Chair for WSPA***

I realize that the referral process is a general education duty but there does not need to be confusion on how it works as long as everybody works together.  Our district’s schools have great teams of general education and special education teachers working together to support students.  The schools also do a nice job of using data and communication with parents to inform them of their concerns.  We work hard to identify the steps needed for teachers to refer the student for a special education evaluation and communicate that need to their parents.

Each school building manages that procedure differently and they have a process that is independent from the special education department.  The process consists of a couple of key factors along with a clear communication with the student’s parents as to what the evaluation is for and why it is needed.

The 2 main factors in the referral process are first, is there a suspected disability in at least 1 of the 14 disability classifications and second, does the suspected disability negatively affect learning to the extent specialized instruction is needed.  Above those factors includes informing the parents about the school’s concerns in both of these areas.  As a parent, they should know before the referral is written that their child is struggling enough in school that the staff feel that their child has a disability which impacts them so much that they cannot make adequate process with the supports that are in place and their child needs specialized instruction in a different setting with a specialized education teacher. 

That sounds serious, but we do not want parents to receive a consent to test form in the mail and not know that it is for special education.  We try to prevent a situation where they hear the child’s teacher say something like, “Would you like us to test your child to see if they qualify for extra help?”  And they of coarse say “sure”, but when the referral and consent forms are given to them, they hesitate and delay signing and returning the forms because they misunderstood the testing purpose.

I know we have too many meetings at school but when it comes to a SPED referral, we need at least one more to discuss the concerns and describe the process from start to finish.  At the end of the meeting we decide to either continue to try different general education and home based solutions or have a referral and signed consent form to determine SPED eligibility.  This usually turns out to be an opportunity for a nice introduction into special education and the IEP “team” concept.