The student must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability including, where appropriate, health and development, vision (including low vision), hearing, motor abilities, language function, general ability, academic performance, self-help, orientation and mobility skills, career and vocational abilities and interest, and social and emotional status. A developmental history should be obtained, when appropriate. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56320(f); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(c)(4).]
Federal and state regulations make it clear that the evaluation must be “sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related services needs, whether or not commonly linked” to the disability category of the child. [34 C.F.R Sec. 300.304(c)(6); Cal Ed. Code Sec. 56320(f).] The school district must use technically sound testing instruments that demonstrate the effect that cognitive, behavioral, physical, and developmental factors have on the functioning of the child. In general, the school district must use assessment tools and strategies that provide relevant information directly assisting persons in determining the educational needs of the child. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(c)(7).]
In addition, the district must consider whether your child requires assistive technology (AT) to benefit from instruction. This could mean conducting an assessment for any service or device that directly assists him in the selection, acquisition or use of an AT device. The assessment must include a “functional evaluation” of your child in his “customary environment”. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.6.] Assessments should assist the parent and school district in determining the content of a child’s IEP if he is found eligible for special education [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.304(b)(1)(ii)], and assistive technology devices and services are potential components of a child’s IEP. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.324(a)(2)(v); Cal. Ed. Code 56341.1(b)(5).] See Chapter 5, Information on Related Services.
Once a district has reason to suspect that a child has a disability, the district must conduct a full and individual initial evaluation that ensures the child is assessed for all areas of suspected disability using a variety of reliable and technically sound instruments. Absent doing that, a district fundamentally violates special education law and will be unable to design an IEP which addresses a student’s unique needs. Cursory assessments also impair a parents’ ability to fully participate in the IEP development process. [Timothy O. v. Paso Robles Unified School District (9th Cir. 2016) 822 F.3d 1105; 67 IDELR 227.]