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Fighting to get your student the help they need

 

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School has always been a huge struggle for our son. As time goes by we get more and more frustrated by the lack of help from the school. It shouldn’t be so hard to get your child some extra help when they need it.

Let me give you a brief background on the situation.

Our son was born 9 weeks premature. He had Intrauterine Growth Retardation and he was small for his gestational age (he was 14″ and 2.5 pounds). Health wise he was OK. He did have to stay in the hospital for 33 days. He also received 2+ years of physical and occupational therapies. In addition he received speech therapy off and on. He also had to wear leg braces for two years, but he’s OK now.

He does have his “quirks”. He doesn’t run correctly (we blame the leg braces), he can’t throw a ball and he’s painfully shy, to name a few.

When he was in first grade the teacher felt he should be left back. We agreed but the school declined. They felt he was OK to progress into second grade. We tried every year in elementary school to have him left back but they wouldn’t go for it. We felt it was better to do it when he was young because the older he got the more likely it would be that kids would make fun of him.

We had him tested by a specialist who said he had Aspergers (a form of Autism) and Anxiety Disorder. Another so-called professional said that he had Attention Deficit (not hyper activity). Many other “experts” said he didn’t show signs of Aspergers (I do see some signs of it). All these so called experts all have different conclusions about him. He also started school a year before he should have (he has a late birthday) which is another reason why we wanted him left behind. Some people say he’s just a kid who hates school.

So what is it? No matter who we talk to everyone comes up with something different.

Notebook

All I know is that he needs extra help. He’s actually very bright, he just doesn’t apply himself like he should. He hates school (I think A LOT of that has to do with no friends) so he doesn’t want to study for tests or do his homework. I think he also gets frustrated because sometimes he doesn’t “get” things right away. Take Math for example. All through school he’s done very poorly in Math. Then in 7th grade when Math concepts got harder he suddenly started bringing home 90’s and 100’s. He can’t comprehend simple mathematical problems like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – but he can compute more complex equations? Interesting…

He’s in 8th grade now. He’s not pulling in the same math grades as last year, but he’s still doing pretty good considering that I have no clue what he’s doing in Math (I don’t understand any of it!).

He would benefit greatly from after school or before school one-on-one help. We can’t afford a tutor (around here they range from $40-$50 and hour). Even if he has to spend his lunch period getting some one-on-one help that would be helpful. He doesn’t have any friends so it’s not like he’d be missing out on much during lunch/recess.

Book Map

The guidance counselor wants us to file for an IEP. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. They are intended to help children to reach their educational goals.

Did you know that EVERY child has the right to an IEP? It’s a federal right for every student.

The problem with IEP’s is that the whole process is very complicated, and the school doesn’t go out of their way to break it down and explain the process to you in layman’s terms. That is why I thought I’d share these pointers about IEP’s from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (LD.org) on how to start the IEP process.

Make a Request In Writing: A comment or request made verbally in passing to a teacher or school administrator technically didn’t happen. Remember always to place requests for an IEP evaluation or changes to your child’s current IEP in writing to the school administrator in charge of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in the school district – email or a hand-delivered letter is fine.

Know Your Rights: After you’ve submitted an IEP evaluation letter of request, every school district nationwide is required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to respond to you within 10 days (school days, not including weekends). The school must provide you with written documentation explaining (1) the parents’ need for consent to conduct an educational evaluation, (2) how the a determination of eligibility will be made, (3) the documentation needed to identify the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) (if applicable), and (4) confirmation that parents are invited to participate in the IEP process.

Be Patient: Your child’s school has 60 school (or business) days to complete the evaluation, which includes an interview with parents, a conference with the student, observations of the student, and analysis of the student’s performance (attention, behavior, work completion, tests, class work, homework, etc.). Legally the CSE (or IEP team) must include “you” the parent, plus at least one general educator teacher (if your child is in even one general education class) and one special education teacher in the meeting.

Speak Up: The IEP team is charged with developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s IEP at least once a year by law – and more often if you are dissatisfied with your child’s lack of progress. If you’re not satisfied, speak up (and write letters or emails) as often as you feel you need to in order to get results! Remember that you are an equal partner with the school in the IEP process, and the IEP document is intended as a flexible, but binding, agreement that guides everyone involved in the child’s school career to ensure the highest quality instruction and free and appropriate educational services and supports in the least restrictive environment.

It’s a very long and tedious process. If you find that you need one for your child I would recommend starting the process immediately. The older they get the harder it is. Don’t wait until your child is in junior high (like my son is) because by then it could be too late to get the help they need to turn their grades around and do better in school. My son starts high school next year and then we have to think about college. With his less than stellar grades I worry that college might not be in the cards for him. :-(

Do you have experience with IEPs? Do you have any tips you would like to share with others? Feel free to leave a comment and tell us about it.

Pens and Pencils

Kimberly

*I was not compensated for this post. I am sharing this information with you for the benefit of my site readers.

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. My heart breaks reading a blog post like this. I have a daughter who has epilepsy, her medication’s have caused side effects we have dealt with many road blocks along the way. She does have a 504 plan that helps, but there are just sometimes when teachers do not want to deal with a child who needs to be taught differently.

  2. Hi Kimberly! Thank you for posting this information. I know it must have taken you awhile to find it. I am an occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration which means I spend my days working mostly with kids on the spectrum (Asperger’s, Austism, ADHD, PDD, etc.) I have seen the frustration you are experiencing in parents eyes time and time again. You are absolutely right, answers are hard to find and it seems no one wants to help, or can’t, or don’t know how. Thank you for making IEP information more available. Feel free to email me if you would like some resources I give my parents with similar needs. Good luck!

  3. For 5 years we battled to figure out a diagnosis for our oldest son. As a teacher and parent, I knew that something was going on. We heard Asperger’s, then no anxiety, then yes/no over and over again. Finally we went to a neuro-psychologist. This individual went into school and did extensive testing with our son. We had a diagnosis just before school ended in June. We decided to request a CSE meeting for an IEP in the fall so that all of the reports were in. This was kind of a mistake. Our son was on medications to help with items and had an amazing start to the year. Even with an autism diagnosis and social/emotional concerns he was denied an IEP. Since he was doing well academically it was nixed due to the improvements they saw. Fast forward from our meeting in November to now. We are finally going back to CSE again because things are very bad. Bullying, staff members refusing to listen to doctor orders related to autism/anxiety, and more.

    One piece of advice, you are your son’s best advocate. You know him and what will work for him. Never let others pressure you into something. I am kicking myself now for being pressured by administrators the last two months and I can not get those back. Now my hope is they listen and we can do something for the start of next year to fix things before middle school. Think about looking at sensory and other items with your son. Kids with high functioning autism/Asperger’s often have concerns with writing. They can verbally explain what they want to do, but getting it written is another story. In addition to this, sensory overload if high with these kids, which add anxiety and makes it hard for them to stay focused. It’s a vicious cycle and a lot of educators do not understand how different wiring in a brain can do this. Good luck and do not forget to investigate the specific laws within NY.

  4. It is a shame that school systems would prefer to just push students through and onto the next grade level regardless of whether the child is ready and able(disability or not!) I have been reading up on boys and school and the research says that boys might benefit from starting a complete year later than girls.

  5. Maria Iemma says:

    My son had some learning disabilities and I was glad that our school system recognized his needs and came through for him with a great program. He has not graduated college and is a happy and well adjusted young man with a good job. If it had not been for the support of the school and family I do not know what would have happened.

  6. My grandson was a month premature – he took forever to walk, talk (actually I still can’t understand some of the things he says) and he is in the first grade. I asked my daughter in law – how can he go to the second grade next year – he can’t read or write or do math – she said they are just going to push him through. I worry so much about him. They said he is developmentally disabled.