Meeting a Child’s Unique Needs

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Yesterday I received a great question from a parent in PA . After I responded, I was so pleased to hear her news – I’ve posted it below.

Here’s her question.

“Is it legal for a school to say that a special education student who is promoted to 9th grade, MUST do the 9th grade curriculum even if the year before they were doing 3rd grade curriculum?”

My answer was a definite NO. I had a question of my own.

“Why is a 9th grader still functioning at a 3rd grade level?”

The school is responsible for providing the child with an education that is tailored to his unique needs and prepares him for further education, employment and independent living. I don’t know enough about the facts in your case to comment specifically.

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit just issued a ruling on this issue in March. If you are dealing with this issue, you need to know more about legal rights of children and their parents and the school’s legal responsibilities.

This article is about a boy who has dyslexia and was functioning academically at the 3rd grade level. Because the family was advocating for him, the school retaliated by placing him in the 10th grade, with no support or assistance –

The Appeals Court ordered the school to pay four years of compensatory education in a private special education program so he could receive the educational help he should have received earlier and that he needed to graduate from high school. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in March 2008:


The following day I heard from her again.

“Thank you for getting back to me. My daughter (adopted) has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and a plethora of learning disabilities that fall under that spectrum. We were told she would never read, but she is and she’s loving it! We attribute her success to the public cyber charter school in which she is enrolled and to the opportunity for quality one on one instruction and extremely high quality and quantity of support services they provide for her. She is doing far better than the doctors and other experts ever thought she would be able to do. We’ll get to 9th grade work one day at her own pace.”

This was the best news I’d heard all day.

This parent has found what her daughter needs and is seeing that she gets it. She didn’t accept the idea that her child was unable to learn. Her daughter just learns differently and needs high quality instruction.

  1. Marie,
    It sounds like a self contained classroom is more restrictive than some help in the main classroom. If the school refuses a legitimate request they must put that request in writing in a prior written notice. I am surprised they have not done this yet. Many times when I have asked for prior written notice the school will renegotiate, sometimes not. IF this helps resolve the problem great, if not you may need to seek help from an advocate or attorney.

  2. We have an IEP coming up where the school is putting our son into a self-contained program against our wishes. He has been in the mainstream for two years, and he is entering the 3rd grade. He has ASD and ADHD. We want para assistance in the classroom for a part of the day. They say that’s like a 1-on-1. We say it isn’t a 1-on-1 because he doesn’t need a person solo–the person can help others, and only needs to be part time with him to redirect and assist now and then. They also say that a 1-o-one is the “most restrictive”, even over a self contained packaged program. Not true? He makes noises from time to time and distracts others, but he is not violent or mean. They describe him as a sweet kid–we agree on that point. Help! what can we do?

  3. Trudy, The school is supposed to provide your child with FAPE (Free appropriate public education). You should not have to hire an outside tutor however you can use this professional in your favor. Your tutor can put together a recommendation to help you with the school to get what you need. Also can request in writing a multifactored evaluation to see where you child is in terms of progress and compare it to the last evaluation. You may request these evaluations once a year. IT does not have to wait 3 years. If you don’t agree with the results you may request an outside evaluation at public expense and the school must consider the recommendations of the outside evaluation.

  4. My daughter was put on an IEP last year because she is ADHD with inattentive disorder. Now in the third grade my daughter is not making much progress. I ended up getting an outside tutor hoping to get my daughter up to grade level. We are at the end of third grade, she is still 2 grade levels behind. I requested an IEE but the Special Ed Director said their is a limited time to perform IEE. The Special Ed Director wants to perform more tests. When do I get a Special Ed lawyer involved. We are going through another year with little progress with my daughter. Her tutor has brought her up to 1st grade level. With Special Ed and tutor why is she still struggling. When this question is asked the schools response is she will always be behind her peers. I need help. I hope I am making sense.

  5. I think that’s great you were able to get help for your child going into 9th grade! I have been trying to get my daughter the support she needs to no avail here in Hawaii. They just don’t care about the law. They want to throw her IEP out saying she is at the same level of her “peers”. I said her “peers” are nationwide, not just the ones sitting next to her in class. I have tape recorded the IEP meetings and am frustrated. Her IEP is poorly written and they do NOT support her. She has some mild auditory process. difficulties. She’s going into the 9th gr next year and I don’t know what to do.

  6. Mary and Karen – they tried to pull that on my son in 1st grade (he is now 16 years old). I observed the class and said NO. I allowed him to be pulled for “circle time” – a time meant for new social skills training. The “skills:”he learned were increased tantrums. A friend referred me to a Social Worker who, as a part of her community service requirements at work at a university, did a pro bono evaluation in our home and helped us with an at-home BIP. She attended the IEP mtg as an advocate. End result, he was based in our neighborhood school, acquired services for his unique needs, an aide to help guide him, and he has been in a mainstream environment since then. He makes As and Bs and now dreams of college. He is deaf with cochlear implants, has ADHD, and a late Asperger’s Diagnosis. Hold firm, find advocates to help. Good luck

  7. Mary,
    We are experiencing some of the same thing with my son he is only 6 in first grade, he has sensory processing disorder and is very close to being on the autism spectrum. He social issues also and the school is labeling everything behavioral even though I can show them how it is more sensory or misinterpretation of social interactions. They want to move him to a fully enclosed special education classroom and I don’t think that is what he needs. I am worried about what you experience that he will learn undesirable behavior and feel he can do it because others in the classroom do.

  8. My son (nephew) has Aspergers Disorder. In 3rd and 4th grade the school refused to believe it and provided no support. Instead, because of his frustration with not understanding social and peer interactions, the school made him out to be a behavior problem. In fifth grade he was put into a contained class of ED students grades 1-5. He has learned the worst of behaviors. How do I get them to address the issues of Aspergers so he has a chance of being normal?

  9. I’m arguing with our local district about eligibility for a 5 year old with FAS. They want to give him a 504 under his ADHD dx. I want OT pull out for fine motor issues (can’t write, hold a pencil, eat with a fork, etc), they say OT is not a “stand alone” service. Huh?

  10. Laurel, I just googled “public cyber charter school” and got several pages of results.

    This may be helpful. Check it out and let us all know what you find.

  11. Regarding your online article: Meeting a Child’s Unique Needs
    04/06/08 – the parent mentioned a “public cyber charter school”. Is it possible to get more info on such opportunities? Our son also has FASD and is showing progress in reading at 7yo. We’re hoping to keep him progressing. Thanks, Laurel

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