Teacher Says, "I Don't Care if He Has an IEP"- Mother Asks for Help

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October 10 , 2007

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 407
Subscribers: 54,

In This Issue:

My 7 yr old with severe ADHD: The Background

Two Questions for Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw's Response

More Excellent Advice About:
The IEP Meeting
The Teachers
The Chart

How to Find an Advocate

Find Help on the Yellow Pages for Kids


Education Law and Advocacy Training
with Pete & Pam Wright


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Training & Book Combos

More Resources from Wrightslaw

How to Find an Educational Advocate or Consultant

What You Should Know About Evalutions

IEP Team Members and Attendance
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Suzanne Whitney Heath

Research Editor


Meet Sue Heath

Sue Whitney Heath of Hollis, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

In addition to writing about creative advocacy strategies in Doing Your Homework, Sue is co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

Her articles include:

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind

What Teachers, Principals & School Administrators Need to Know About NCLB

Getting Help for Children with Reading Problems

Exit Exams Can Be Optional If You Plan Ahead

10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention Policies

Sue is webmaster for the New Hampshire Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, the Learning Disabilities Association of New Hampshire, and the Brookline and Hollis Parent Council. She serves on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC). She also works with families as a special education advocate.


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Copyright 2007, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your website without explicit permission.

I am feeling in desperate need of help. I just now learned about Wrightslaw.

My son is 7 years old, his ADHD has been characterized as "very severe" - by one evaluator, "most severe I've seen in 25 years of practice." I've taken him to three private evaluations and he is now under the care of one of the most respected child neurologists in the county.

He is also gifted. He was in a private school that really couldn't meet his needs, so I placed him in public school. He has an IEP.

This is a true story, and one of many requests for help that we receive.

Although the mom asks only two questions - the answers to those questions address many issues.

You'll want to read all the background about this young boy with severe ADHD. Read about his teachers' concerns and his mother's fears.

Suzanne Whitney Heath, Research Editor at Wrightslaw, answers the questions. But, gives us much more.

Read on to find excellent advice on how to look for the real issues and formulate a master plan for negotiating services for your child.

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The Background

He gets good grades in second grade, nothing below a C, and he reads on average at the 3rd grade level.  I have a tutor who works with him one, sometimes two hours a day.  I spend at least an hour or more a day with him also.  I think it’s the support he’s getting at home, not in school, that is keeping him afloat. 

We just started late last school year a very low dose of Dexedrine, which helps a bit, but if we do much more, interferes with sleep and appetite so we are careful.

His Teachers Think He Needs Too Much Guidance

Fortunately, the teachers over the years have all agreed that he is the sweetest dear in the class; kind, respectful, well behaved – model child in that department.  But every last one of them has said he needs too much guidance.  

His PreK teacher said he was the brightest in the class but simply could not stay on task for more than a couple of moments.  It was she who suggested I test for gifted and she was correct.

He is in a full time gifted program with 33 students and two full time teachers.  Both of these teachers are enormously frustrated by his need for guidance “95 percent of the time.”

They told me on the 7th day of school “this has to end.” They say things like “I don’t care if he has an IEP, he needs to be more independent.”

He comes home with a chart filled mostly with sad faces because he didn’t complete various tasks (like writing down homework) correctly.  They are bothered by the fact that they have to write it down. I don’t like the idea of him being penalized if he doesn’t, since its written into his IEP that they must help.

One is a brand new teacher.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t know much about the condition.  I’m still learning and never would have believed it could be this maddening if I hadn’t been living with it for so long.

Anyway, the school has called an IEP team meeting – I did not request this – for this Thursday where the county special ed director will be present.  I’m concerned they are going to lower some kind of boom.

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Two Questions

1. Can I ask for a paraprofessional? I’ve heard there are other ADHD kids in the class too.  And even though two teachers for 30 plus kids should be fine, I think there are other children who could use the help.   

2. Can they ask my child to leave the school?

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Sue's Advice

I’ll answer your questions first but I think there is more.

Q: Can I ask for a paraprofessional?

A: Read this before you ask for a paraprofessional. How to Request a One-to-One Paraprofessional for Your Child by Wayne Steedman.

Then even if you want a paraprofessional, don’t ask for one.

Instead, focus on the IEP goals and accommodations.

If more staff is needed, do you want to request someone other than a teacher to teach your son? Let the non-certified staff supervise recess, collect data, move chairs around for reading groups, help with the buses, etc.

Let teachers do the teaching. They have the training, we hope.

Q: Can they ask my child to leave the school?

A: No, they cannot ask your son to leave. They are required to teach him. They are even required to teach him with out making him feel like he doesn’t belong there.

More Excellent Advice

About the IEP Meeting

Go ahead and attend the meeting, but as soon as you get there tell them that you were unable to prepare because you do not know why they have asked for the meeting.

If the meeting gets out of hand, repeat that you were unable to prepare for the meeting because you did not know what would be discussed, and ask them to “reconvene at a later date when you will be able to participate as an informed member of the team”.

If the meeting is going fairly well, still respond to whatever is presented with, “Well, I didn’t know we were going to discuss this. Let me get back to you about it in a few days.”

That will give you time to figure out your plan and respond in writing once you have had time to think about the whole meeting.

Don’t agree or do anything at the meeting. If they wanted you to be prepared and be a full participant they would have told you what the meeting is about ahead of time. You control whether or not they catch you off guard. Just go there to find out what they want and then respond to it in writing. Read “Letter to a Stranger" once you have had time to think.

About the Teachers:

The teachers who are having trouble with your son are basically saying that they would be happy to teach him if he would just stop having his disability. Tough.

They get the whole kid. If you can live through it, so can they. They are a public school. He is the public.

When they say, “He . . .  

  • doesn’t pay attention,
  • forgets,
  • interrupts,
  • daydreams,
  • wanders off task,
  • drives the teacher to drink,
  • doesn’t show his work on math problems,
  • is disorganized,
  • etc.”

You say, “That is part of his disability. Let’s take a look at...

  • his program (IEP) and see if we need to change the goals (increase services)
  • accommodations (an accommodation is something the teacher does to level the playing field for the student, not something the child changes to make life easier for the teacher)
  • placement (like a nice private school for gifted students [not likely], not a “resource” room for a gifted kid)
  • or maybe add some staff training (like have an expert come into the school and train the teachers how to teach a bright busy child).”

About the Chart:sad face

What needs to end is this chart full of sad face stickers.

How do they think that makes him feel? Do they think the sad face stickers are going to change his disability? Does the kid in the wheelchair get sad faces on her chart for not walking well? If they gave the kid in the wheelchair sad face stickers do they think it would change the way she walks?

You son has a hefty dose of a neurological deficit that affects his global behavior. He is also a child who attends a public school.

He is also a child who they will educate and will not damage by inappropriate behavior on their part. That is a sentence you may want to state at the meeting depending on how the meeting goes. My bet is you will find an opportunity to make that statement - politely, no yelling, even if it kills you.

Read this, Behavior Problems and Discipline, before the meeting and read it in detail later after the meeting when you have time.

About the IEP:

Most IEPs are not great.

Buy and learn what is in these books:IEP book

Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives by Barbara D. Bateman and Cynthia M. Herr

Preparing Instructional Objectives by Roger Mager

Measuring Instructional Results, by Roger Mager.

www.amazon.com sells all of them.

Then make sure you participate in writing future IEPs.

If you really look at what the IEP says about your son’s present level of performance, what it expects him to accomplish and provides for accommodations, you may see that it could use some additional information and tweaking.

If the IEP team and all your son’s teachers were abducted by aliens tonight, would the people who stepped in to take their place be able to do it seamlessly based on what is in the IEP? If you close up the holes it may be easier for everyone to follow it and to understand your son’s disability and degree of disability.

For Now

Order the books and organize and calm yourself in preparation for Thursday’s meeting. All you need to do there is take notes and respond with common sense as appropriate.

If you get over your head, remind them that you did not know about the subject of the meeting until you arrived and you would like to "reconvene the meeting at a later date when you can participate as a fully informed member of the IEP team”.

How do I Find an Advocate?

In my area, who would be a good advocate, or how do I research and find one on my own?

Use the Yellow Pages for Kids state directory to find advocates, resources, and disability information for your state.

The Yellow Pages for Kids User Guide will teach you how to be a more effective advocate. Learn how to build your team, get educated about your child's disability, find special education advocacy training, locate a parent group, and get legal and advocacy help.

Good luck,

Research Editor, Wrightslaw

Printer-friendly copy of Teacher Says, "I Don't Care if He Has an IEP" by Suzanne Whitney Heath.

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