As students return to in-person instruction, their parents may be concerned about the repercussions of the pandemic on their child’s learning. They may raise those concerns with their child’s pediatrician or other medical provider and arrive at your district with a prescription for an evaluation, specific services, or an IEP from the doctor.
“Even before the pandemic, we would treat [these prescriptions] as referrals for assessment requiring a timely response,” says Alejandra León, a school attorney at Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP in Oakland, Calif. “There is such a low threshold to tip over the scale of child find, so typically, that’s the response. If there isn’t quite enough information there, that’s a reason to communicate with the parents, build a relationship, and find out what’s going on.”
Follow these steps when parents present you with a prescription for an evaluation, service or IEP:
Meet with the family. A case manager or other special education contact should as soon as feasible bring the parents in or meet virtually with the parents to establish a connection as they would have before the pandemic.
Ask parents what concerns they presented to their child’s doctor that may have prompted the prescription. Did the doctor base his recommendation on any evaluations he completed? Did the parents have a specialist do an evaluation, then share that with the doctor? Did the doctor base his prescription on those results? See if the parents can share those evaluations with you. Let them know you would like access to any information they haven’t shared with you before that could shed light on their child’s needs.
Seek permission to connect with the physician. If information is missing from what the parents give you or you just want to gain more perspective on the history of the student, seek parental consent to communicate directly with the child’s physician, León says. But don’t push unnecessarily. For example, parents may not want their child’s entire medical history available if they are only seeking a little time with a resource specialist.
But if the student is medically fragile, you may need to push for communication with the doctor.
Discuss assessing the student. You may find out that the parents told the doctor that they are concerned about their child’s heightened anxiety in the wake of the pandemic. You may want to pursue an evaluation and observe the student more closely during in-person or distance learning to see if you see anxiety affecting the student’s learning. If you are unable to complete a necessary face-to-face assessment because of public health and safety restrictions or parent concerns, work with the parents on the timing and doing what you can based on the information you have.
Excerpted from “Don’t dismiss a doctor’s prescription for a student to be evaluated” in District Administration. Read the full article online.