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Why Parents Should Get an Independent Evaluation

by Wrightslaw

Last week we told parents to find an expert to evaluate your child and make strong recommendations about your child’s communication needs.

We also  said… If you, a parent says, “My child needs an iPad”, that’s the last device the school will consider. Even if you were an AT expert, it would be hard because you are the parent first, and schools do not want to “give in” to parents.

Dad2Luke commented, “I’m having a hard time reconciling the statement in this article that if a parent suggests something that it will be the last thing considered by an IEP team.”

Sounds as if he may have run into that “brick wall” of resistance at schools.

Brick Wall of Resistance

We do say parents are experts on their children. But from the perspective of the school staff, parents are outsiders.

In our articles and books we write about “school culture” that includes the beliefs and assumptions held by school people. We also say parent-school conflict is normal, predictable, and inevitable. Unfortunately, school culture prevents school staff from realizing that sometimes, parents really do know what their children need.

Can you force educators and school psychologists to change their beliefs? No.

As the parent of a special ed child, your job is to negotiate with school staff and secure a good quality special education program for your child. As a negotiator, your single most important tool is to understand and be able to explain the position of the “other side” as well or better than your own!

That’s why we teach parents how to use advocacy tactics and strategies that will help develop a different relationship with the school and the IEP team.

Independent Evaluations

This is also why a comprehensive evaluation by an expert in the private sector is so important. The evaluations used to make educational decisions must contain accurate information about what your child really needs – including changes that need to be made in curriculum, teaching methods, and/or school structure. The only people who will provide this information are experts in the private sector.

We recommend that parents ask the evaluator to attend the IEP meeting to discuss their findings, explain their recommendations re: the type of program the child needs, and to answer other questions. It’s more difficult for the team to “consider,” then ignore, an evaluation when the person is sitting at the table with them.

Helpful Resources

The Special Education Survival Guide – Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition.

In Chapter 4, you learn about gatekeepers, special education teams, and one-size-fits-all programs.

In Chapter 5, you learn about obstacles to success, including myths, rules and school culture, personality styles, how to deal with difficult people, and steps you can take to minimize or resolve problems with the school.

In Chapter 6, you learn why parent-school conflict is normal, predictable, and inevitable. You learn the most common reasons for conflict, and strategies you can use to resolve conflict.

Chapter 7, you learn how routine problems can erupt into crises, common pitfalls, and steps you can take in a crisis to improve the odds for a good outcome.

Why Parents Should Get an Independent Evaluation

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Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training Programs

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17 Comments on "Why Parents Should Get an Independent Evaluation"


OK, I admit to still learning, I’ve got the Wrights Law books an keep going back and forth, but can’t find my answer. The question is – Last May, 2012 an IEE was requested, the Evaluator was found, when he went to the school to review my child’s records, indicated to the school, he needs at least a 504. The school then cancelled the IEE. Then waited til Sept. 2012 to do a 504. The IEE that was requested by the parent was never done. Is this right, OK? Or should we be getting the IEE still?


I agree that an independent evaluation is essential for understanding a child’s learning profile and needs. Generally, schools evaluate to determine eligibility. Independent evaluations are usually more diagnostic and comprehensive. In my experience, schools make recommendations based on their resources and past practices, independent evaluators make recommendations based on the needs of the child.

I have seen a range of district responses to IEE’s from “relief” that they have a better understanding of the student to complete denial. It is interesting to me that the district’s that are the best evaluators are usually the same districts that will consider the outside reports.

It seems that the culture of the district is most important to how much a parent is able to participate in IEP’s, how evaluations are used to build IEP’s.


I can only add to this discussion by saying that my child’s school district was appreciative of the IEE. The school psychologist missed it and failed to do Child Find though my child was introduced to the psychologist at 4 years old with issues. The IEE later given at 13 years old) helped the district to target specific services to help her succeed and she is looking at college. BUT, school districts want to save money. Some parents I know use the IEEs to seek outside help for their kids as well as purchase AT support at home which in some cases, the schools used as support needs for a child. It is not the best way to go but it is better than fighting all the time with the school. Some parents don’t want to wait until the school district makes the services available. Some parents just “do it.”


This is a great site! Advocating for our children even at the college level can be frustrating at times; but I was wondering if there are any online resources where a parent can find information about any supportive services that parents can take advantage of that would be low cost? Sometimes, we as parents can help the school and our children by supplying outside supportive services.



Parent – Are you suggesting that if a child gets and IEE then all of a sudden the child will move to the top of their class? That sounds a little silly.

P.S. What you have suggested is not research.