Last Modified: September 13, 2023 | Published: March 30, 2023

This article was originally published on Clear Child Psychology.

What do I do if I disagree with the school evaluation?

Families are often faced with a tough decision after an evaluation at school when things did NOT go as expected. Here are a few reasons that might happen:

  • You feel the school doesn’t get it: You may feel that the school just did not really ‘get it’ in terms of understanding your child’s needs
  • Your child didn’t qualify: You may be concerned when you hear that your child did not qualify for services 
  • Services don’t look right for your child: You may hear that your child qualified but not for the services that seem appropriate for your child’s needs

Here are some tips for working with your child’s school when you disagree. 

If your child is given a diagnosis you disagree with, here are some ideas.

Sometimes, a parent will walk away from a school evaluation thinking, “well, that’s a surprise.” Maybe the school would like to identify your child under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) category or another category for services, and you disagree. 

First, the school can NOT diagnose nor rule out autism or another mental health concern. 

I’ll say that again. Regardless of the school’s decision regarding eligibility under the ASD label, the school can NOT decide whether or not your child has a diagnosable concern. This info is often very confusing to families. 

Here, we have one of those issues where “the devil is in the details.” Yes, schools evaluate for autism and other concerns. But, no, they do not diagnose. If the school ‘suspects’ your child may have autism or another concern AND that the autism or concern is interfering significantly with an educational benefit, they are supposed to conduct an evaluation. 

At the end of the day, all they can say is whether or not your child qualifies for services under autism or another service area. That’s it. 

If you disagree with an eligibility decision[1] at an IEP[2] meeting, you can do a few things.

1. Disagree at the meeting.

This is the most expedient approach. When you attend the eligibility meeting for your child, remember you are on the team. Best practice is that “parents are on the team and at the table.” So, when you attend the eligibility meeting, you can simply state, “I do not agree with the autism label (or the results).

Is there any other area where my child may still qualify?” Typically, the school will now go through a process to look at other eligibility categories[3]. For example, some kids with related challenges will qualify under ‘Other Health Impaired’ (OHI) or Specific Learning Disability (SLD), or Speech and Language (Articulation or Language Disorder(s)). 

2. Request another meeting.

If you go home from your IEP eligibility meeting and get a queasy feeling that something has been missed, you can always request another meeting. Typically, schools do not close the IEP until many days after the eligibility meeting. You can still meet again to discuss your concerns. 

3. Get a second opinion.

Once the meeting is closed, there are two options for a second opinion. In the first case, if you feel the school did not thoroughly evaluate your child, you can request an IEE. An IEE is an Independent Educational Evaluation. This means that you can get a private evaluation that is paid at the school’s expense. 

Another option is to seek out a private evaluation on your own. If you seek a private evaluation, sharing the results with your child’s school is important. Another eligibility meeting will likely need to be opened for the school to decide if they agree with the results. The school will also decide if there is an educational need for services. 

When disagreeing at the meeting, pay attention to these two questions that will be asked at the end of the meeting.

These two questions are the entire reason for the meeting. 

#1. Has the evaluation been sufficiently comprehensive to evaluate all areas of special education need? 

#2. Can the child receive reasonable benefit from general education alone? 

If the answer to #1 is ‘no,’ the meeting is over. The team will need to continue the evaluation and plan another meeting. 

If the answer to #2 is ‘yes,’ the meeting is over. This means your child can learn in general education and receive some reasonable benefit…AKA…your child does not need services. 

Think about those questions. You are a team member, and your vote counts. 

If you are struggling to understand what is happening in the meeting, ask the meeting to pause and ask a clarifying question.

At these meetings, you’re being asked to process a lot of information. 

It is acceptable to say, ‘wait a minute!’ “Can you explain why you are thinking that the evaluation is comprehensive?” Or, “Can you tell me how my child is receiving reasonable benefit?”

The school will provide evidence for both questions, and you can decide whether or not you agree. If you really can’t agree, another meeting might be needed. This will allow you and the school some time to consider the data and gather more information if needed. 

Other things to consider during an IEP meeting. 

Carefully review the eligibility checklist. Do you agree?

The eligibility checklist is the list of criteria for your child to qualify for an IEP. 

The school team should provide good evidence for the claims that your child qualifies or does not qualify for each of the criteria. If you disagree with the eligibility category, you can say, “I am not sure about this category.” Then ask, “Is there another eligibility category where my child may fit better?” Eligibility category checklists should be handy. You can use these lists to consider an alternative with the team. 

When looking at categories of eligibility, consider where your child fits best.

For example, your child may already qualify under Speech and Language. Now your child’s school is considering moving your child to Significant Learning Disability (SLD). 

You, as a parent, might want to look at the criteria for each one with the school team and consider alternatives. These categories typically do not ‘define’ the services your child gets. Having the right category is better as it provides a guide to the services. 

In the example above with the speech-language vs. the learning disability category, the school may drop speech services. It would be likely a special education teacher would take over and focus more on your child’s learning. 

Pulling it all together

Taken together, disagreeing with the evaluation results, although it may feel intimidating, is not the end of the world. It’s okay to disagree. 

If you have a good team at your child’s school, they will work with you to come to a better understanding of your child’s needs. They will also take time to hear your personal goals for your child. 

Sometimes these relationships go south, and there is a need for legal support or advocacy. This is okay too. 

It is important to get the relationship with your child’s school into the most collaborative and supportive place you can. The best way to do this is to focus all conversations on “student success.” 

Want immediate help? Ask a question on HelpMe Cadey, our free AI-infused way to get you recommendations fast.


  1. Eligibility: This is a process the school district must go through to evaluate your child’s needs. This process determines whether or not your child qualifies for services, and if so, what category they fit under. Schools must consider outside reports during the evaluation if the family provides them. Still, schools do NOT have to accept a recommendation from an outside agency, hospital, or clinic in terms of the final say about eligibility.
  2. IEP: Individualized Education Program. An IEP is special education services. For all children the school team ‘suspects’ may have a qualifying disability, the school district is required to conduct an evaluation. This evaluation is to determine if the child qualifies.
  3. Eligibility category: In order to qualify for special education services, the law is written that a child’s needs must fit under one of these ‘categories.’ Yes, it’s a ‘label,’ but it is necessary. Schools must do this in order to define your child’s needs and appropriate the right services to meet those needs.

Want immediate help? Ask a question on HelpMe Cadey, our free AI-infused way to get you recommendations fast.