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Child is Aggressive: Will Special Ed Help?

by Wrightslaw

My son is three. He is very aggressive. He is not cognitively delayed, seems bright, knows his alphabet, can count, is learning to recognize letters and numbers by sight. He does fine with the school curriculum, learns the songs, participates in conversations with his classmates, is attentive during circle time.

We are considering placing him a special ed preschool because of his aggression but I have some questions …

Will I have to keep him in a special ed classroom when it’s time to go to kindergarten even if he can pass the kindergarten assessments? How can I help him at home? I don’t want him to get behind in in his cognitive skills by putting him in special ed.

You have a three year old child who is bright, knows his alphabet and can count, is learning letters and numbers by sight, interacts with other children, and you are thinking about putting him in a special ed classroom?

Why? Because he is aggressive?

Behavior is a way to communicate, especially for young children. What is your boy trying to communicate? What is causing his aggressive behavior? You can’t make rational decisions about his education until you know what is causing the aggression, what needs to be done, and if the school can help. Here are two things you need to do:

  • Consult with a pediatric neurologist or child psychiatrist
  • Get a comprehensive evaluation of your son from a good child psychologist who has expertise in evaluating preschool children

I would not advise putting your son in special ed where he is likely to be viewed as a child with emotional problems and/or the victim of poor parenting.

Most special ed teachers are not trained to deal with aggressive children. Mental health professionals are. I am concerned that placing him in special ed may do more harm than good.

I have a suggestion. Get the book “1-2-3 Magic” by Dr. Tom Phelan. The 1-2-3 Magic technique is easy to learn and implement – and it works. Dr. Phelan gives you a simple, kid-understandable, quick-to-implement, & quick to explain method and strategies. This program is very effective with aggressive children.

Give the 1-2-3 Magic method time to work while you are waiting for the results of the comprehensive evaluation.

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29 Comments on "Child is Aggressive: Will Special Ed Help?"


AMEN! Printing…


I disagree with your comment on Special Education Teachers not being trained to deal with children with aggressive behaviors. I am a Special Education Teacher and also have my Masters in Special Education in both programs I received extensive training on how to address the needs of children with agressive behaviors. Many of whom are on Behavior Support Plans. We also are trained on how to teach chidlren alternative behaviors that are socially appropriate or giving them access to the necessary coping skills needed to be successful.


I am a Marriage and Family therapist and refer parents to 1-2-3 Magic all the time. It is super. I usually recommend they get the video or CD and watch it together, because two people reading a book often get different things out of it. If they watch it together, they can stop it and discuss it, assuring them working together on it. I even recommend they have grandparents, sitters, even teachers also watch it.


We went through this with my son. He was in G-T program in school and it was still too simple for him. He just needs to be challenged and he has been diagnosed with ADHD and has Asperger’s syndrome. Meaning he has sensory issues, is active, and is extremely smart. He is very hands on…and very strong. He is home schooled and is doing very well. He knows that he has to keep himself busy.


I agree that you should not jump into special ed, but first have your child evaluated . I prefer a team approach ( some hospitals or centers have this) over one doctor/psychologist’s opinion, especially if they have spent very little time with your child. It’s a bad sign if after 15 minutes they pronounce a diagnosis or hand you a prescription. It also helps if they put together a comprehensive report which they can’t really do if they haven’t done much of an evaluation. I would also consider getting the name of a behaviorist in your area who will come to your home , observe him, hopefully be able to determine when he is getting aggressive and put a plan together with you. “Explosive Child” is a great book. Also consider reading “No More Meltdowns” by Jed Baker.