Crucial to an effective IEP [individualized education program], is a thorough and professional assessment of your child. Your school district has an absolute legal duty to assess your child and must provide you with an Assessment Plan which lists all the tests to be used and in what areas, e.g., academic, cognitive, social, psychological, etc.

Much of what is decided at the IEP meeting about your child’s program will be based on the assessment and you have a legal right to have your child assessed by a private individual outside of the school district, sometimes called “independent” assessments. There are good reasons to consider this: sometimes school assessors already know what limitations there may be in the district and therefore may not be willing to be as frank about recommendations, especially if those recommendations may be costly or suggest programs or services the district does not have. A private assessor on the other hand is not an employee of the school district and therefore is more likely to be frank. You also have an easier time of being sure the assessor knows what your concerns are and even what you want the assessor’s report to focus on in terms of program details.

The law states that the school district must receive and consider the private assessment at the IEP meeting. The law also states that the district must pay for your private assessment unless the district takes you to a due process hearing and proves that its assessment is appropriate. While there is a chance you will not be reimbursed for the private assessment, it may be that the school district will do so because it is often more expensive and certainly more time-consuming to go to hearing than to simply reimburse you.