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Dear Debbie,

Our 4-year-old son is in preschool. Recently, we were told by his teacher that she believes he may have some developmental issues and should be evaluated. We were completely unprepared for this and are stunned and somewhat frozen in place. We haven’t the vaguest idea where to begin. Does it begin with talking to our pediatrician? Can you help us take the next steps? What does this mean and what should we do next?

You certainly may wish to speak with your son’s doctor, but before you do, I suggest that you speak to your son’s teacher. You said she told you that she believes he may have some developmental issues and should be evaluated, but you did not say in what areas. You need to ask the teacher specific questions about what delays she is seeing. Does she believe that your son has delays in speech and language, in his gross or fine motor skills, or in all areas?

After you speak with your son’s teacher, you can certainly speak to your pediatrician and get his or her opinion, but you do not have to do this.

If you agree with your son’s teacher and suspect that he may have developmental issues, you have the right to refer your son to your school district’s Committee for Preschool Education for a free evaluation, by sending a letter simply stating that you believe your son has developmental delays and that you are asking for an evaluation to determine if, in fact, he is a child with a disability.

I suggest that all correspondence with the school district be sent by certified mail or hand delivered, in order to have proof of delivery, and you should keep copies of all letters you send to the school district.

The committee must do a complete evaluation of your son in all areas in which you suspect he has developmental delays.

After all of the evaluations are completed, you will have a meeting with the committee, in which the results of the evaluations will be discussed, and it will be determined if your son requires services to address his developmental delays. If your son needs services, the services must be provided at no cost to you and must be provided in the least restrictive environment. This means that the services can be provided at your home, the therapist’s office, at his private preschool, or any other type of school your child may attend.

You are an equal member of the committee, so you will be a part of the decision-making process regarding your son.

It is always a good idea to identify and address delays as early as possible, and you would be wise to pay attention to the concerns of the teacher. However, the final decision is yours. The committee needs your permission to evaluate, classify and provide services. If at any time you change your mind, you are free to withdraw your consent.

For more information and help with the committee process, you can contact the parent center in your area by phone or e-mail. A list of all the parent centers in New York State is available at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/techassist/parentcenters.htm. These services are free of charge.

Deborah Berger is an attorney who concentrates in Education Law. She represents parents and students in Long Island, NY. Deborah Berger [218 Main St. in Long Island (631) 630-6982.] PMB Box # 107, Setauket, NY 11733. For more information, visit www.deborahberger.com.

Disclaimer: “Ask Debbie” is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. This is not a solicitation for business but is general information. Ms. Berger is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains or an education advocate.

Updated 4:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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