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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-019

On February 28, 2018, the department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (parent) against the Appleton Area School District (district). This is the department’s decision regarding the complaint. The issue is whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year, properly conducted a special education reevaluation of a student with a disability.

The student’s individualized education program (IEP) team met on January 3 and January 8, 2018, to conduct a reevaluation of the student as requested by the student’s parent. The IEP team reviewed existing data about the student, including information on previous evaluations, information provided by the student’s parents, and previous interventions and the effects of those interventions. The team also reviewed results of current assessments conducted by members of the IEP team as part of the evaluation including intelligence tests, autism rating scales, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder rating scales, sensory profiles, speech and language assessments, and educational audiology tests. The team also reviewed results of classroom observations conducted by the special education teacher, school psychologist, occupational therapist, school social worker, speech language pathologist, and educational audiologist. Additionally, the team reviewed the results of a recent independent neuropsychological evaluation of the student provided by the student’s parent. The team reviewed the student’s academic and functional performance in light of the criteria for the impairments of autism, other health impairment, specific learning disability, and speech or language impairment. The team determined the student met the criteria for other health impairment and speech and language impairment. In rejecting the impairment area of autism the IEP team determined the student did not meet the criteria specified in PI 11.36 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code because the student did not display difficulties or differences both in interacting with people or events, and did not display problems which extended beyond speech and language to other aspects of social communication, both receptively and expressively.

The student’s parent asserts the IEP team erred in concluding the student did not meet the eligibility criteria for the impairment of autism. The parent points to the independent neuropsychological evaluation which concluded the student exhibited symptoms of a mild autism spectrum disorder, prior medical diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder, and observed behaviors noted in the evaluation which could be interpreted as consistent with a student who has autism spectrum disorder as evidence. In conducting educational evaluations and making eligibility determinations, school districts cannot rely on any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining an appropriate educational program for the student. As such, it would have been inappropriate in this situation for the IEP team to rely on the student’s medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as the sole criterion for determining the student’s educational eligibility. The medical diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders are not the same as eligibility criteria for the impairment area of autism under special education law. The full scope of information reviewed by the IEP team during the course of the evaluation supports the IEP team’s conclusion the student did not meet the specified criteria for the impairment of autism. The district properly conducted the reevaluation of the student.

This concludes our review of this complaint which we are closing. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process. 

//signed CST 4/20/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support