How does a child with intellectual disability qualify for an IEP?
Typically, the process of assessing a child for an IEP under ID will include an assessment of their IQ and an assessment of their adaptive skills. Parents need to be familiar with how standardized tests work, in terms of placing their child’s performance on the test on a bell curve to establish if they have “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning.” Dr. Sarah Pelangka, special education advocate and owner of KnowIEPs, tells us, “Most standardized tests aren't a valid representation of IQ for students with DS. I also often see psychs administer verbal cognitive tests when there is an underlying communication impairment. It is important for families to know 1) there are nonverbal measures, so always ensure the nonverbal scores are being included and considered and, 2) know which standardized measures are more valid considering their child's diagnosis.”
Parents might be concerned that their child’s communication and behavioral skills are likely to impede any real assessment of their cognitive abilities. For some parents, the idea of a single type of intelligence is scientifically flawed. The school has a responsibility to assess in all areas of suspected disability. If your child has a syndrome or condition associated with ID, that is certainly an area of suspected disability. Although you are asked to consent and can refuse, most attorneys recommend that rather than refusing to consent, you allow the district to assess and then request an IEE if you disagree with the results.
For more information, see our article Intellectual Disability 101.