Child Find is a mandate under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which requires all school districts to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services. This mandate applies to children in public and private, even religious, schools. It also applies to children who are migrants, homeless or wards of the state.
IDEA requires that the school districts establish policies and procedures to ensure that a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) is available to disabled children. The school districts obligation is not dependent on the nature or severity of the disability. Students are not required to fail before the school district’s obligation is applicable.
It is important for there to be public awareness and professional training to help identify children with suspected disabilities. It would be helpful for physicians, all teachers, day care workers, etc., to be educated about disabilities. There is a lot of information on-line. Here are a few resources:
LD Online: http://www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/signs
Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/learn-signs
Referral can be made by a representative of the school district or parent.
Many schools districts are implementing a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to determine if a child with a specific learning disability responds to scientific, research-based intervention as a part of the assessment process. The school district’s use of RTI does not remove the requirement that school districts locate, identify, and evaluate a student with a suspected disability. The Federal regulation addressing referrals to special education respects the parents’ ultimate right to request an evaluation at any time.
The Child Find mandate passes an important legal responsibility on school districts. School districts are not obligated to assess every student referred under this mandate. However, school districts should use caution when denying a request for assessment. The threshold for suspecting that a child has a disability is relatively low. A denial may trigger a parent’s right to file for a due process hearing. Failure to identify is a complete violation of the right to FAPE.
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