Evaluations Part 1: First Step for Special Education

How to Request Evaluations:

If your child is struggling in school and might have a disability, you can request an evaluation to see if your child qualifies for special education programming. Evaluations can be requested by a parent/guardian, a teacher or an administrator. The evaluation will determine whether the student’s education is being impacted by an impairment that might be physical or mental.

An evaluation will look for difficulties in all areas of suspected disability, so it’s important for parents, teachers and providers to contribute relevant details in the evaluation request. Generally, the evaluation will review the child’s developmental history and assess cognition, academic achievement and functional skills evidenced through behavior, interpersonal skills and emotional regulation. Strengths are measured alongside challenges, and these can provide important inputs for specialized programming.

If the evaluation indicates that a student has a qualifying disability, the impairment will meet criteria in one of 13 categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Autism, Deafness, Deaf-Blindness, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Serious Emotional Disturbance, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment (including Blindness). For more detailed information about these categories, visit the Parent Center Hub through a link at the end of this article.

Here are guidelines for requesting an evaluation:

  • Make your request in writing.
  • Address your letter to the district’s special education director or program coordinator.
  • You can deliver your request by email, certified mail, or in person. If you hand-deliver the letter, make sure to have your copy date/time stamped so you have a receipt.
  • The district has 25 school days (weekends and holidays excluded) to respond.

Your letter should include:

  1. Your child’s full name and birthdate.
  2. A clear statement of request, such as “I am requesting a full and individual evaluation for my son/daughter, [name and DOB].”
  3. A statement that “all areas of suspected disability” should be evaluated.
  4. A complete description of your concerns, which can include details about homework struggles, meltdowns, grades, failed or incomplete assignments, and any other mitigating factors.
  5. Attached letters from doctors, therapists, or any other providers who have relevant information, insights, or diagnoses.
  6. Your complete contact information and a statement that you will provide consent for the evaluation upon notification.

Be sure to follow up if you don’t hear back from the district within 25 school days. When you provide consent for the evaluation, please note that you are not giving consent for your student to be placed in a special education program. You are consenting to the evaluation so that you and the school can make an informed decision about how to help your child succeed.

After receiving a letter of request for evaluation the school district has the responsibility to:

  • Document the referral.
  • Notify you, in writing, that the student has been referred for evaluation.
  • Examine relevant documents from you, the school, medical providers, and other involved agencies.
  • Tell parents/guardians in writing about the decision to evaluate or not. This formal letter is called “prior written notice” and must be provided within 25 school days of the evaluation request.
  • Request your formal written consent for the evaluation.
  • Complete the evaluation within 35 school days after you sign consent.
  • Schedule a meeting to share the evaluation results with you and determine next steps.
  • If the student is determined to have a qualifying disability, special education services are initiated through the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). If a disability doesn’t qualify for special education but is found to impact a student’s access to appropriate education, the school and family might begin to develop a “504 Plan,” which can provide accommodations through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

If the school declines to offer any support services and you still believe that your child should qualify for assistance, you can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This request also should be made in writing (refer to the guidelines above). The district must respond to your IEE request within 15 calendar days.

For specific information about Washington laws regarding Evaluations, refer to sections 392-172A of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). Go to apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC

For more information about evaluations and special education laws, please visit the following resource sites:




PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) team can provide you with a packet of resources, including a letter template to help you compose your request for evaluation.

Two ways to Get Help:

Call 1-800-5PARENT (572-7368) and select extension 115, English or Spanish available, to leave a dedicated message.


Go online to fill out a form to Get Help!

For the English form: click on the following link https://wapave.org/get-help/ 

For the Spanish form: click on the following https://wapave.org/get-help/obtenga-ayuda/