What are the first steps for parents when school problems are
observed? What is meant by “pre-referral” or “problem-solving?”
If a student is having unusual difficulty in school the parent
should discuss the situation with the teacher and other school personnel.
Although not a requirement of IDEA, most schools have a problem-solving
team which works with families in reviewing and solving problems
that affect school performance before beginning a formal process
of referral for special education and related services as described
in IDEA. Problem-solving activities or strategies used by the regular
education teacher to address the child’s difficulty may consist
of changes in the physical environment, changes in instructional
approaches, short-term remedial activities, peer tutoring, or behavioral
Who serves on the problem-solving team?
Members of the problem-solving team usually include the child’s
teacher, a building level administrator, guidance counselor, the
school psychologist, social worker, or consultant. The special education
teacher may also be included. Most schools have a problem-solving
team that includes general education staff member/s.
What do parents need to know about problem-solving efforts?
- Parents should request to participate in all meetings of the
- Parents should receive ongoing information regarding the child’s
progress with the strategies in place.
- Parents should provide documentation and results of previous
- Length of time interventions will be attempted prior to referral
for consideration for special education. (Time is usually from
three to nine weeks)
- Who will implement the intervention, needed materials, frequency,
and setting of the interventions.
- Date for follow-up meeting to review progress.
- Parents can stop problem-solving at any time and request referral
for consideration for special education and related services.
The school must provide parents with a formal notice of their
agreement or disagreement.
Prior to, during, or after a period of “problem-solving”
efforts in the regular classroom, the child may be referred for
consideration for special education and related services.
Excerpted from the LDA ADVOCACY HANDBOOK: A Parent’s Guide
for Special Education available to LDA members for free downloading in the Members Only section or available for $12.00 from LDA.