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1.5: The Referral Process

  • Page ID
    178785
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    If the tiered interventions do not result in improvement, a formal referral is made for evaluation to determine eligibility for special education and related services. At this point, parents must be notified and give their consent for the evaluation. IDEA specifies that a child must be evaluated within 60 days of receiving parental consent or within any period established by the state. Students must meet eligibility criteria to receive special education and related services related to one or more of the disabilities categories identified in IDEA.

    In addition, IDEA includes a special rule for eligibility determination that states a child cannot be considered to have a disability if the determining factor is lack of appropriate instruction in reading, including the essential components of reading instruction; a lack of instruction in math; or limited English proficiency. In other words, these factors must be ruled out as a primary determinant of the child’s difficulties in school.

    Next, a multidisciplinary team (MDT) conducts evaluation procedures to determine if the child meets eligibility criteria. Most students are administered educational and psychological tests. Traditionally, the MDT uses norm-referenced tests (i.e., tests designed to compare and rank test takers in relation to one another) are used to help make eligibility decisions. It may also use other procedures such as interviews, developmental histories, checklists, and behavior rating scales.

    Two areas frequently evaluated using norm-referenced tests are intelligence and academic achievement. Intelligence tests are used to determine a student’s intelligence quotient (IQ), which can be used to help make decisions regarding the most appropriate disability category for a student if the category includes IQ as a criterion. Achievement test scores are often used as one eligibility criterion, typically to document the student’s academic performance in reading and math. The specific methods of identifying exceptional students are discussed in chapters focusing on specific disabilities (Smiley et al., 2022).


    Smiley, L. R., Richards, S.B., & Taylor, R. (2022). Exceptional students: Preparing teachers for the 21st century (4th ed.). McGraw Hill.


    This page titled 1.5: The Referral Process is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Diana Zaleski (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

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