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My Child with LD/ADD is Not Allowed to Play Sports Because of Low Grades
by Pat Howey

"My son has learning disabilities and ADHD. He is charming and social. He loves to play sports, but is often excluded because of his grades - he receives D's and F's in some subjects. According to his IEP, his work should be modified. What can I do?"

Pat Answers

If your son has average ability to learn but is getting D's and F's, it is quite possible that he is not receiving an appropriate education. You need answers to some questions.

What special education and related services is the school providing? Does the school provide individualized instruction designed to meet your child's unique needs? Or does the school only provide help with assignments, homework and accommodations on testing?

Are the IEP Goals Individualized?

In many cases, kids in resource rooms (special education classrooms) do not receive much (or any) one-on-one instruction that targets their basic skills in reading, writing, math, and spelling. Instead, the teachers provide help with school work and homework.

In many cases, the goals in the child's IEP are general statements (i.e. will improve reading) or the goals are taken word-for-word the state's "standards".

If your child's IEP includes goals that are not specific, measurable, and tailored to the child's unique needs, or the goals are taken from the state's standards, your child is unlikely to receive the specialized instruction he needs.

What Do the Evaluations Tell You?

Take a look at the last few evaluations of your child. Look at the standard scores. Are the standard scores staying the same? Are the standard scores going up? Are they dropping? If your child is receiving appropriate help in special education, his standard scores will increase.

Most parents (and many teachers) do not understand standard scores. A standard score of 70 does not mean your child is "passing." A standard score of 70 means your child is functioning at the 2nd percentile in that area.

Here is an easy way to think about standard scores and percentiles: If 100 children your son's age took the same test, 98 of those kids would do better than your child.

That's not very good, is it?

Look at the subtest scores, too. Subtest scores often tell the real story of why a child is not doing well in school. (for more information about testing and test scores, check the resources below)

Educate Yourself

You need to educate yourself about your child's disability, his needs, and how to get the school to provide an appropriate special education program for him.

If you do not have Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - The Special Education Survival Guide, get the book immediately.

Attend a Training Program

Better yet, attend a Wrightslaw special education law and advocacy training program. In these programs, you learn about legal rights and responsibilities, how to understand and use your child's test scores, how to write SMART IEPs, and how to negotiate with the school.

If you can't find a Wrightslaw training program near you, find a group of parents or an organization that works with special needs children - get their help to plan a training program. Other parents will benefit from these training programs, too.

To find a group, check the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for your state.

Contact the Parent Training and Information Center and the Protection and Advocacy agency for your state. These groups often provide training for parents.

As you become more involved and educated, you are likely to meet many other parents who are as upset as you. Wrightslaw training programs are a good way to meet other parents who are fighting for services for their children.

You are NOT alone, even though you may think you are.

More Resources

Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Teacher, Advocate and Attorney - Your child has received three years of special education for reading problems. Has the child caught up with the peer group? Has the child fallen further behind? How can you tell? What do standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, and age and grade equivalents mean?

This article is required reading. To successfully negotiate for services that provide educational benefit, parents need to know how to interpret test scores. To ensure that you have the graphics in this article, print the article from the screen (rather than download it).

How to Get Good IEP Goals and Objectives - What can parents do to get good goals and objectives in a child's IEP? What can parents do when the school wants to use subjective "teacher observations," not objective testing, to measure the child's progress? How and when should parents use a consultant to help with IEP goals and objectives. How can parents avoid "methodology disputes?"

How to Start a FETA Study Group. Article describes nuts and bolts of starting a FETA study group, how to get the word out, how to manage emotions and stay on task.

Meet Pat Howey

Pat HoweyPatricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), serving on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She has been a Commissioner on the Tippecanoe (County) Human Relations Committee, a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. She has been on the faculty of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy since its inception in 2011.

Pat has an A.S. and a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time.

Contact Information

Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117

Revised 07/20/19

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