The term "learning disabilities," often referred to as LD, encompasses a broad spectrum of academic characteristics. Children who have difficulty reading at their grade level or printing and writing legibly may have a language processing disorder. Those young students who are unable to focus on a single task for more than a few moments may have a form of ADD, attention deficit disorder. Children unable to comprehend simple mathematical concepts such as addition may have dyscalculia, a disorder in which they cannot make sense of the natural order of numbers. If any of these academic challenges describes your child, you may want to make a request to the school administrators that your child be tested for learning disabilities. If your child is learning disabled, he will qualify for special education services.
Begin keeping your child's schoolwork if you suspect he is learning disabled. Organize the work according to subject, including artwork. Keep all the work, including those at which he excelled. Keep a journal of any contact you have with his teachers regarding school performance.
Contact the school administrator or principal and to schedule a meeting. Tell the principal that you believe your child may have a learning disability and that you want to request an assessment. Be prepared to provide details as to why you feel testing is necessary. Bring your folder of your child’s schoolwork to show to the principal.
Review with the principal any contact with your child’s teacher you may have had regarding issues in the classroom with discipline or quality of work.
Ask the principal what specific steps you need to take to request an assessment of your child. You most likely will need to make a written request. The principal should be able to provide you with the person to whom you should direct your request and the specific address to send the request to. In most cases, the primary person is the school psychologist. Before leaving, obtain the name of the school psychologist, the head of the special education department for the district and the district superintendent.
Format the written request as a business letter. Include your name, your child’s name, the name of the child’s school and the grade your child is in. Within the body of the letter, explain why you feel your child should be tested for learning disabilities. This explanation must be detailed. Saying that your son’s grades are too low is not likely to warrant testing. Specify the problems your child is having, such as he cannot read at his grade level or cannot do simple addition. Include one or two copies of his schoolwork that illustrate your concern.
Include in this letter a request for a meeting with the school principal, school psychologist and your child’s teacher or teachers. State when you can be available for this meeting. The reason you’re requesting a meeting is to establish the need for an IEP (Individual Education Plan). An IEP is a necessary part of receiving special education services. At this time, though, all you need do is request the meeting.
Send your request to the appropriate person. You may want to send a copy to the head of the special education department as well. Send the letter by certified mail. It will take about 2 weeks to receive a reply. In all likelihood, your request will be granted. Administrators overwhelmingly favor providing assessments for those students who may be at risk.
Expect testing to begin in a few weeks once your request is accepted. The testing is performed by qualified district personnel. Part of the testing requires your participation. You will fill out a questionnaire that seeks information on your child’s home environment and his family situation.
Be prepared for the results of the assessment. If you suspect your child has a learning disability, it’s likely the test or assessment will demonstrate he is indeed learning disabled. Don’t panic. The meeting you asked for in your written request will take place, and an IEP will be developed. The IEP will act as a road map to your child’s academic success.
In your written request, keep the tone professional. Do not demand or complain. This is a formal request for a specific action. If you have a good relationship with your child’s teacher, you may want to meet with her first to voice your concerns. There is no cost to you, the parent, for assessments. The school district should not charge you for any part of the testing.