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Lutheran Special Education Ministries is dedicated to serving schools, churches, and families in order to advance the success of children who have learning needs. If we can continue to help with this topic or other special education questions, feel free to contact us at lsem@luthsped.org or 248-419-3390.

 

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What About Parents Who Request an “Unnecessary” Evaluation?

If a parent is asking for an evaluation from the public school district, the teacher and school must not stand in the way of the parental request.In the last issue of ShapingtheFuture, we addressed the difficulties surrounding talking with parents about a student who is struggling. On the flipside, teachers may encounter parents who request an evaluation for their child when the teacher does not feel it is warranted or disagrees with the reasoning behind the request.

The first point to emphasize in these situations is that if a parent is asking for an evaluation from the public school district, the teacher and school must not stand in the way of the parental request. It is up to the public district to determine if an evaluation is warranted or not, based on information obtained from the parents and information requested from the school. This decision does not lie with the teacher or school administrators. Even if the school does not agree that an evaluation is necessary, teachers and administrators need to provide the information that the public school requests in order to make an informed decision.

In these situations, keep in mind that a parent may be seeing different behaviors and academic difficulties at home than you see at school. Perhaps, if this is the case, the parents have already shared these with you, and you have worked together to put some strategies into place before the evaluation request is made. If these concerns are new to you, it is a good opportunity to meet as a team and share what you see at school and compare that to what they see at home. Good communication between home and school may help the parents put behaviors and academics in a different perspective. Parents may have different expectations at home, or if the child is their oldest, they may not know exactly what to expect. These conversations can help them to see your viewpoint as a teacher in terms of difficulties their child may or may not be experiencing. If parents still want an evaluation after this type of conversation, direct them to the appropriate person from the school district to make this request and let the school district handle the decision from there.

Parents who struggle with the reality that their child might have a disability, or even suspect that may be the case, experience a wide range of emotions. This is also the case when a parent asks for an evaluation when a teacher does not feel it is necessary. The request for an evaluation could be coming from fear or guilt. Parents may feel these emotions if there are other family members with a disability, or if they notice something atypical during a child’s development that they fear they “caused.” The parents may be more sensitive and worried that there might be a disability present, so an evaluation can be a source of reassurance for them. Parents may also be confused or disappointed if they see even the slightest signs of their child not meeting the same benchmarks as other children. An evaluation may provide reassurance for them and clear up any questions they have about their child’s behavior and academic skills in this case also. While the teacher may see clearly that the child is performing similarly to other students in the classroom, the parents may not be seeing this yet.

Do not dismiss their concerns simply because you do not see the same behaviors or have a different opinion.Consider these potential emotions parents experience and offer to pray with them about their child and for their family, while also proposing solutions for home and school. Do not dismiss their concerns simply because you do not see the same behaviors or have a different opinion. Avoid the mindset of “talking them out of an evaluation” during these conversations, and approach the situation with the idea that everyone has the same goal in mind. That goal is to help the child learn and grow in faith while at your school. When you approach conversations with this goal in mind, the natural result could be that the parent decides to wait to request an evaluation to see if the alternative strategies are successful. They could walk away from the conversation with a greater perspective of the skills and abilities of their child.

Parents may also see the evaluation process and subsequent diagnosis of their child as an avenue to connect them with more support for their child. In some cases, certain diagnoses may open doors for insurance to cover treatments or therapy, but not always. Sometimes, parents may not realize the impact that a diagnosis does or does not have on their child’s education at the school. Opening up the conversation to ask why the parent is looking for an evaluation may help clarify some of these questions. If parents know what is or is not available at the Lutheran school based on an evaluation and diagnosis, this will help them further assess whether they want to pursue an evaluation.

Sadly, there may be occasions when parents’ reasoning for requesting an evaluation includes an ulterior motive. There are times when parents might view students with disabilities as gaining some advantages in the classroom by receiving extra support and accommodations. They might assume that their child would get better grades with this extra support or gain an advantage on tests with extra time given. While this is frustrating, explain to parents that even with a disability diagnosis, accommodations and classroom supports are given according to a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and that not every child with the same disability will receive the same supports. Drawing the conversation back toward the individual needs of their child rather than the services other children in the classroom receive can be challenging, but it keeps the conversation appropriately focused.

Giving supports to children who do not need them provides no advantage to that child and may hold them back from meeting their potential.Using the following analogy may also be helpful. Many people in the world wear glasses or contacts to help them see clearly. However, giving glasses or contacts to someone who does NOT need them does not only seem illogical, but it could hurt their vision. Similarly, giving supports to children who do not need them provides no advantage to that child and may hold them back from meeting their potential.

Conversations in which parents and teachers discuss a child with a suspected disability are often stressful for both parties. The situation here can bring about strong emotions in different ways than the case where a teacher is recommending testing but a parent is struggling with that decision. In any parent conflict, the best approach is to bring it to our Lord in prayer before any further conversation, and keep the success of the child as the focus rather than the feelings you may have about the parents’ request.

Lutheran Special Education Ministries is dedicated to serving schools, churches, and families in order to advance the success of children who have learning needs. If we can continue to help with this topic, or other special education questions, feel free to contact us at lsem@luthsped.org or 248-419-3390.

Kara Bratton is resource center director for Lutheran Special Education Ministries. She is a regular columnist for Shaping the Future. Kara has also done several LEA webinars, which are accessible in the Resources>Archived Webinars tabs at www.lea.org.

Photos © iStock/Bowden Images, Highway Starz, Tom Wang 112