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Back to School: IEPs, Section 504 and Eligibility

It is hard to believe that the 2018-2019 school year is upon us. The summer recess has seemingly passed so quickly.  I believe that virtually all school systems will begin this school year next week. This will bring joy to some children but anxiety and fear to others.  This is the time of the year that parents should be mindful of what to expect from the school system for the upcoming school year.  For example, parents may want to review their child’s most recent IEP to determine what educational progress is expected for your child.  Parents may want to consider whether their child’s Section 504 is providing appropriate accommodations and services for their child. Parent may also want to consider – after considerable thought during the summer – whether their child may now be eligible for special education and related services under the IDEA.  These questions and a myriad of others may be on parents’ mind as the new school year is to begin.

As the new school year begins, parents should be prepared to ask questions whether the school system is complying with the IDEA or Section 504 concerning their child’s need for special education and/or related services. The beginning of the school year is when parents should be more aware of their child’s special education programming, services and instruction. Of course, it may take several weeks before parents are able to assess whether the IEP or Section 504 plan developed for their child last school year is providing positive and measurable educational benefits and appropriate accommodations.   For most school systems, report cards and IEP progress reports will be due after the first none-weeks of school. This first grading period may give parents an idea what tends are developing for their child’s education.  Is your child making adequate educational progress on his IEP goals and objectives?  Do your child’s grades for the first grading period reflect accurately what is expected?

When parents begin to  question and voice concerns about their child’s educational progress and programming, it is important to seek help. This may mean calling an advocate or special education attorney for advise and assistance if necessary. Please do not wait until the end of this school year to seek this advise and assistance. A simple call in many cases may help resolve your concerns and answer your questions.  I look forward to hearing from parents that want advice and assistance concerning their child’s education.

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IEP Homestretch As School Is Ending

It is now the IEP homestretch for school ending for the 2017-2018 school year.  It is hard to believe the 2018-2019 school year will begin in August. Time passes quickly especially when you see your children grow up so fast.  For parents, the summer is a time to be with their family.  The kids are out of school.  Most will enjoy the summertime and look forward to the time their children will return to school. For some children, they will be attending summer school or an extended school year program.  Most others will spent time with their family, work, and enjoy the free time from school.  But in the back of the minds of most families of children with disabilities, they are wondering if their child made adequate progress on their IEP goals and objects, whether their school provided appropriate instruction and services for them; whether their educational placement was appropriate, and whether the new school year will bring about changes.

As the school year is ending, I have received a number of calls from parents on school disciplinary problems. For children with disabilities, if the school system intends to suspend the child for more than 10 consecutive school days or change their educational placement, the school must convene a manifestation determination meeting.  If the manifestation determination team finds the student’s conduct was directly related or caused by his disability, then the team has to comply with a number of legal requirements.   Most importantly,  the team cannot change the child’s educational placement unless the parents agree.  On the other hand, if the manifestation determination team does not find the student’s conduct was directly related or caused by his disability, then the school system can discipline the child in the same manner as a regular education student.  As a result, school systems will convene disciplinary hearings or tribunals. The purpose of these hearings is two-fold: First to determine if the child has violate the Student Code of Conduct; and second if so, then what discipline should be administered.   I recently represented a student with disability who was facing suspension or expulsion for fighting with another student.  The manifestation determination team did not find that the student’s conduct was directly related or caused by her disability.  The hearing officer found that the student violated the Student Code of Conduct and suspended her for the remainder of the school year.

You might ask what happens to a special education student who has three weeks left in the school year and has been suspended for the remainder of the school year? Will the child miss the end of the year tests? Will the student be promoted to the next grade?  Will the student be retained? In this situation, the IEP team met immediately after the school disciplinary hearing to determine what will be the child’s placement during the suspension.  For the school system is still legally required to education a child with a disability even though she has been suspended from school for the remainder of the school year. The IEP team determined that she will receive eight hours of  home bound instruction a week so that she can prepare for the year end exams and be promoted to the next grade beginning in August 2018. This is fortunate for this special education student because if she was a regular education student, then she would not be placed in a home bound program and receive eight hours of week of instruction through the end of the school year. Most likely the regular education student would have been placed in an Alternative School Program for the remainder of the school year.  Special education laws provide protections for students with disabilities even if they are suspended or expelled from school for violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

I am also dealing with two cases involving children that were denied special education eligibility under the IDEA.  School systems must convene an eligibility meeting within 30 days after testing is completed to determine whether the child meets the legal requirements for receiving special education and related services.  These are very important meetings.  In these two cases, the school system determined the child did not meet the requirements for special education and related services.  The legal requirements, in short, are the child must have a disability under one of the 13 eligibility categories under the IDEA.  The child’s disability must adversely affect their educational performance. And the child must be in need of special education and related services.  If the school system determines eligibility, then an IEP team meets to develop an IEP for the child.  But if the school system does not find eligibility under the IDEA, then it must still refer the child to determine whether he meets the requirements for special education or related services under Section 504. In my 33 plus years of experiences in representing children with disabilities, I have almost never encountered a school system that timely refers the child to the Section 504/ADA coordinator to determine eligibility under Section 504.  This is a violation of Section 504.  A child who does not meet the legal requirements for IDEA eligibility may meet the legal requirements for Section 504 eligibility. If you want further information on IDEA/Section 504 eligibility, please contact me.

 

 

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IEP Meeting Season Again

It is early April and school will end for the year around the third week of May. This is time that most school systems schedule annual IEP meetings for students.  Of course, some students have different dates for annual IEP meetings depending on when they became eligible for special education and related services and an IEP was developed or when they transferred or enrolled in the school system. Nonetheless, this is IEP meeting season. What should you expect at this IEP meeting?  How can you as a parent be properly prepared for this meeting?  Should you ask for extended school year programming?   These questions and others should be raised at annual IEP meeting.

At the beginning of every annual IEP meeting, the IEP team leader will ask the teachers and specialists such as occupational therapist or speech and language therapist to give a summary of your child’s educational progress for the school year. To prepare for this part of the meeting, you should have received a copy of your child’s progress  reports and report cards every nine weeks since the beginning of the school year. You should review each of these reports and determine what progress, if any, your child made on each of his IEP goals and objectives. Most progress reports show whether the child is making educational progress by stating: no progress, making progress or it cannot be determined. You should review your child’s IEP goals and objectives to determine what progress was expected from the time of the last IEP meeting to the annual IEP meeting.  In other words, the IEP objective for example may state that your child will increase his reading speed from 40 words a minutes to 75 words a minute.  This means the student’s baseline at the beginning of the school year for reading was 40 words a minute.  The objective at the end of the school year was for the student to read 75 words per minute.  If you child’s progress shows he now can read 73 words per minutes from 40 words a minutes this means he has probably mastered his objective.  If your child is still reading about 50 minutes a minute, that means your child has made minimal progress in increasing reading speed for the school year.  There may be legitimate reasons why your child has not made adequate progress in this areas such as illness, absences, increase in behavioral challenges, and other factors. On the other hand, there may not be legitimate reasons why your child has failed to make adequate progress and you should ask why? An IEP is an equivalent of a contract and must be followed. The  school system is not a guarantor that your child must increase his reading speech from 40 to 75 words per minutes, however. It merely has to insure that your child make adequate educational progress each school year. What is adequate educational progress depends on varying facts and the individual need of each child.  For some children, an increase of 35 words per year would be considered a success. For other children, an increase of 35 words per school year would be considered a disaster.

I began this discussion by asking that you review your child’s report cards and progress reports for each nine week period during the school year.    What should you do if you do not have a copy of such report cards and progress reports?  You can ask for a copy of these reports from the school before the IEP meeting.  If no report cards and progress reports exist, then the school has violated the IDEA. it is mandatory that school systems provide parents of children with disabilities at least as often as report  cards that are given to children without disabilities. For most school systems, this is every nine weeks or similar period during the school year.

Annual IEP meetings can designed to review all IEP goals and objectives, related services, instruction, assistive technology, and other requirements under the IDEA. One requirement that is often glossed over is extended school year programming. Please remember that extended school year programming (EYSP)  is not summer school. EYSP is specially designed to provide your child extended special educational programming into the summer. This does not mean your child receives a full day of school each year for the entire summer.  But it does not mean either that your child receive one hour of specialized educational each week for two weeks either. EYSP must be tailored to the child’s individualized educational needs.  A school system cannot artificially limit the hours or number of weeks that you child should receive EYSP. A typical schedule for EYSP for a child with severe or moderate disabilities may be for 4-6 weeks for 3-4 hours a day.  For a child with mild disabilities then the number of weeks and hours of EYSP may be less. Again, EYSP depends on your child’s individual needs.  There is no uniform legal requirement that your child receive a specified number of hours and weeks of EYSP.  For more about ESYP, you should visit http://www.wrightslaw.com. This website provides valuable information to parents on EYSP and a host of many other special education topics and subjects.

Let me conclude this post by recommending that you spend ample time preparing for the IEP meeting.  This means doing some homework.  Some parents draft IEP goals and objectives for the annual IEP meeting. Some parents invite specialists such as their private speech and language therapist or psychologist to speak at the annual IEP meeting. Some parents write down questions to ask the educators at the annual IEP meeting. The point is that you should adequately prepare for the IEP meeting. You should not walk into this meeting without doing your homework.  Although an annual IEP meeting is not the equivalent of a test, it is still an important landmark in your child’s educational time line.  An annual IEP meeting can achieve much for your child’s special educational future.  If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming IEP meeting, please let me know.

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What is your most important special education question

I have been in the practice of representing families of children with disabilities for about 34 years.  Over this time, I have been asked countless questions by parents, advocates, attorneys, and others who are seeking advise on special education topics and issues.   The question I want to ask is what is the most important reason you contact a special education attorney in the first place?  In other words, why happened now or recently that made you to contact an attorney for assistance?   There may be a different reason for each parent, for instance, why you pick up your home or cell phone to contact an attorney for help concerning a special education problem or problems for your child.   Although there may be different reasons, they generally boil down to one thing: the school system is not doing the right thing for my child’s special education needs. This may be failure to follow an IEP; failure to evaluate your child; an improper evaluation of your child,  improper disciplinary action against your child; improper placement of my child in a restrictive environment; failure of my child to make educational progress, and the list goes on and on. As you can see, the common thread with all of these concerns is that the school system did something or failed to so something for your child with special needs that has created a problem or problems for him or her.

These type of problem or problems is what parents most often call me for. The initial first few minutes of the phone conversation usually start with a parent telling what happened today, yesterday, a week  ago, a month ago, or longer that the school system is not helping their child in his or her special education program.  Most of the time it is the school system is not following my child’s IEP.  Parents – on some level – understand when their child is not receiving an appropriate education under their IEP.  Sometimes parents have an understanding of some of the rules and laws that the school system may be breaking ; sometimes they do not. in both cases, however, these parents believe the school system is not following the rules, laws, IEPS, and other requirements to insure their child is receiving a free appropriate public education.

After listening to many of these parents explain what is wrong with their child’s IEP, special education programming, services or placement, I often tell parents that I cannot provide specific legal advise to answer their questions and concerns because I have not reviewed and read the child’s IEPs, special education eligibility report, psychoeducational evaluation, and other critical information from the school. It is like when you really feel sick and call a physician for help. It is very likely the physician you call cannot diagnose your medical problem over the phone. The physician has to see you in person and sometimes administer a number of tests to see why you may be feeling sick.   Anyone that has been in the emergency room of a hospital or in the waiting room of health care clinic or doctor  knows that you have to fill out a questionnaire first about your health condition and history before a physician will actually see you. Even then, the physician and particularly the nurses have to take your blood pressure, take your temperature, take blood in  some cases, listen to your heartbeat and lungs, and do other things before they determine what kind of medical attention and care you need at this time.

The point I am trying to make is sometimes parents call me with their problems about the school system and expect that I can provide immediate answers to their questions. Most of the time I cannot do this.  I have explained to many hundreds of parents that I need for them to send me a copy of their child’s IEPs, psychoeducational evaluation, private evaluation, medical reports, if any, special education eligibility report, behavior and disciplinary reports, if any, IEP progress reports and other information first.  I cannot advise parents over the telephone or in an email whether the school system has not followed the IEP, or violated any of the many rights that parents have under the law unless and until I am able to review their child’s educational records. So do parents follow my advice and do this? Most do not.   I receive a polite thank you and never hear from them again.

This is saddening in that I realize many parents have legitimate concerns and complaints about the school system’s failure to provide a free appropriate public education for their child. But I cannot help any of these parents without reviewing the child’s educational records. In many cases, I am willing to do this for free or at a nominal fee. Let me say this again, I am willing to review a child’s educational records for free or at reduced fee and then advise the parents what legal and other options  they have to correct the problems they feel are harming their child’s education. But time and time again parents for some unknown reason will not follow up with me and send the necessary records for me to review. I understand parents sometimes are so convinced their child’s rights have been violated that they think I should answer their questions because it so obvious to them. But it is not obvious to me because I know absolutely nothing about your child unless I have an opportunity to review their school records.

    

 

 

 

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Children with ADHD and Special Education and IEPs

This is the fourth and last post in a series of posts on Children with ADHD and Special Education and IEPs. I have attempted to outline and summarize some of the most important  issues that parents face in public schools when their child is diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.  I am sure I have not answered every question about how to address every educational challenge for a child with ADHD.  I will leave it to you to follow up with me or other professionals who can provide assistance, advice, information, and advocacy for your child.

This last post on ADHD will address some of the strategies the school system can employ for a child with ADHD. These strategies are not exhaustive. In other words, there are many proven strategies to address the educational needs of children with ADHD that I have not cited below.  It is likely no one intervention, strategy, or aid may be adequate for your child. It is usually a combination of strategies, interventions, and aids that prove to be helpful in addressing your child’s educational needs. Of course, every child is different.  Some children may  respond to well-tested intervention for children with ADHD while other do not. And there are sometimes issues  of using medications to improve your child’s behavior, concentration, and ability to organize among other things.  Medical decisions should be made by competent and experienced physicians in the field of ADHD. If your child is administered medication(s) for his or her ADHD, then you should become aware of the side effects of the medication(s). You should inform the IEP team or Section 504 team what medication(s) are prescribed by your physician and the side effects of the medication(s).  This is critical information. Without such information, your child’s teachers will not be able to fully understand the reasons for your child’s behaviors, and learning and testing abilities and performance.  But for now, here are some commonly used  strategies for behaviors issues for your child with ADHD.

 Strategies for Behavior Management for ADHD

Suggestions for accommodating child with ADHD:

  • Closer teacher supervision
    • more frequent positive reinforcement to stay on task
  • Shorter assignments
    • preferential seating
    • assigning study buddy
  • teacher initiated reminders about work and materials to be brought to and from school
  • supplying specially marked folders to store work
  • feedback in form of a point accrual system or token programs for academic performance
  • positive social reinforcement
  • Response cost behavior modification programs
  • paying attention, completing class work, cooperating with classmates, raising one’s hand before speaking, neatness of work.
  • Academic Contingency  Management  and  Cognitive-Behavioral

Contingency management and academic interventions are more effective than cognitive-behavioral interventions for improving classroom behavior. Cognitive-behavioral interventions are effective for enhancing academic performance.

When task related attention or disruptive behavior is targeted, contingency management (token reinforcement or cost response) and academic interventions (peer tutor) are preferred over cognitive-behavior modification strategies(problem solving training).

Myths and Realities of ADHD

 About 20% of children with ADHD do not respond positively to Ritalin. Great variation in children’s response to stimulant medication such Ritalin.

Token reinforcement and response cost are most widely studied classroom-based treatments for children with ADHD. Individual children vary in their response to these strategies.

  1. Positive reinforcement alone is not sufficient for acquiring and maintaining appropriate behavior
  2. Myth that ADHD is a disorder of self-regulation. Interventions should focus on training students with ADHD to regulate own behavior. Research on cognitive behavioral interventions has not supported use of these interventions for students with ADHD.
  3. ADHD must limit educational performance and the need for special education services must be demonstrated.

 

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Children with ADHD, Special Education and IEP

I have spent the last two posts addressing specific issues of identifying and determining eligibility for children ADHD.  In this post, I will address the evaluation process for determining eligibility for children with ADHD.  As you may remember, Section 504 does not require your child meet the more strident eligibility requirements of the IDEA.   In brief, Section 504 eligibility is based on whether your child has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights has recently issued a memorandum on the process for identifying and determining eligibility for a child suspected of having ADHD under Section 504. In other words, it is generally easier for the child to be determined eligible under Section 504 for reasonable accommodations than under the IDEA.  This Act requires ADHD have an adverse affect on the child’s education performance and a showing the child will benefit from special education and related services.

Some school systems will perform a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation of your child to determine his or her eligibility under Section 504.  Many will not. These school systems will simply accept a letter or report from a physician stating that your child is diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and that he or she needs accommodations at school to target his educational needs. This may sound like the more simple and easy process to secure Section 504 eligibility for your child. It is. But it has it short falls.   The biggest problem is when you merely provide the school system with a physician’s letter or report, it may not really address what are your child’s needs for reasonable accommodations. Most physicians are not well versed in special education. They do not fully understand what school systems are required to do for children with ADAD.  They do not fully understand behavior management techniques, for example, or what are behavior intervention plans.  They do not fully understand what educational methodologies and teaching strategies are appropriate for children with ADHD.  Without specific diagnostic and testing  information from a clinical psychologist or school psychologist, the school system may fail to provide what are appropriate accommodations for your child with ADHD. I have received many phone calls from distraught parents who complain the school system is not providing reasonable accommodations for their child with ADHD or that the accommodations are not addressing their child’s educational, academic and behavioral needs under the Section 504 plan.  These are just a few of the most glaring problems of not providing the school system with an independent  comprehensive  evaluation of your child or not requesting the school system to extensively assess your child to determine his need for special education under Section 504 or the IDEA.

Let me jump to what is the role of a clinical psychologist or school psychologist in assessing and testing your child for ADHD. Aside from intelligence tests, achievement tests, behavior tests and checklists, and adaptive behavior tests and checklist that should be parts of the battery of tests that administered to any child that is evaluated by the school system,  there is more to the assessment process for children suspected of having ADHD or ADD.   Let me outline how school systems might assess your child with ADHD.

  1. Psychologist’s Role in Assessment of ADD

 Use of Tests

 Intellectual functioning

1. Intellectual functioning

2. Academic achievement

3 Perceptual skills – visual motor ability, memory

4. Tests to measure self-esteem, depression, anxiety, family stress

5. Tests to measure executive functioning

Type of Tests for ADD

 Gordon Diagnostic System

  • Tests of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A.)
  • Conners Continuous Performance Test

Psychologists  collect  information  from teachers   completing  behavior  rating   scales observation of child at school and at home.

Most rating scales used to assess ADD provide standardized scores related to attention span, self-control, learning ability, hyperactivity, aggression, social behavior, anxiety:

  • Connors Teacher Rating Scale (CTRS)
  • Connors Parent Rating Scale (CPRS)
  • ADD-H: Comprehensive Teacher Rating Scale
  • ADHD Rating Scale
  • Child Rating Scale
  • Child Behavior checklist
  • Home Situations Questionnaires
  • School Situations Questionnaires
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Evaluation Scale
  • Academic Performance Rating Scale (ARPS)

School’s Role in assessment should be school-based behavior rating scales, teacher interviews, review of a students cumulative records, analysis of test scores, and direct observation of the student in the class.

  1. Clinical Assessment
  • Continuous Performance Test (CPT)    measures the child’s ability to sustain attention and inhibit impulsive responding.
  • Matching Familiar Figures Test (MFFT) – standardized test of children’s cognitive processing  ADD children tend to exhibit a “fast-inaccurate tempo” by a high number of errors and shorter response latencies.
  • Delay Test (GDS) – test of child’s ability to delay responding under appropriate circumstances.

These suggestions for assessment of your child with ADHD are not exclusive. In other words, psychologists and school examiners may use other assessments and tests which are valid and reliable for the purpose of determining your child’s eligibility for ADHD. What I am suggesting is that you speak and meet with a clinical psychological or school examiner before your child is assessed to determine the scope of testing and what instruments may be used to determine your child’s eligibility under Section 504 or the IDEA.  Be prepared. Ask questions.  In this way, it is more likely the special education program and services developed for your child with ADHD will be successful and productive.

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Children with ADHD: Special Education and IEPs – Part Two

This is the second part of series of posts on Children with ADHD: Special Education and IEPs. In the first post on this subject, I laid the groundwork why it is so important to properly locate, identify and evaluate a child with ADHD/ADD.  As I said, the majority of children that I represented have a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD.  So what is ADHD?  According to the DSM-V,  ADHD is defined as follows:

  • A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:
    • For children, six or more of the symptoms (Table) have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level, and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. Please note: the symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behaviour, defiance, hostility or failure to understand tasks or instructions1
    • For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), five or more symptoms are required (Table)
    • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms present prior to age 12 years
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms present in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities)
  • Clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic or occupational functioning1
  • Symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal).
Symptoms of inattention Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity
Often fails to give close attention to detail or makes mistakes Often fidgets with or taps hands and feet, or squirms in seat
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or activities Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly Often runs and climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless)
Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or workplace duties Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly
Often has difficulty organising tasks and activities Is often ‘on the go’, acting as if ‘driven by a motor’
Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort Often talks excessively
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities Often blurts out answers before a question has been completed
Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli Often has difficulty waiting their turn
Is often forgetful in daily activities Often interrupts or intrudes on others

What is important to note is that you child may exhibit some of these symptoms but not others.  In other words, there are degrees of ADHD, which may be categorized as mild, moderate or severe if you will.  The greater number of symptoms with a marked severity, for example, should be considered the IEP team in developing an IEP. Again, some children with ADHD have such mild symptoms that they may only require a Section 504 accommodations plan.  One of the problems with a Section 504 accommodations plan is that it does not require the specificity of an IEP. I wish I could count the number of times throughout the years that I received calls from parents who complain their child’s Section 504 accommodation plan is not working or that is not being implemented. This is not to say that a child with ADHD who has an IEP is guaranteed that it will work well for the child and that it is properly implemented. To the contrary, I have found many parents complain their child’s IEP is inadequate and does not address his educational needs. It is for this reason that a comprehensive evaluation – whether it is medical, psychological or psychoeducational or a combination of them – should list or mention all of the symptoms of the child’s ADHD. The IEP team should  carefully consider and evaluate how each of these symptoms adversely affects the child’s educational performance.  The IEP  team should develop goals and objectives to address each symptom that adversely affects the child’s educational performance.

There is so much more to discuss when developing an IEP for a child with ADHD. I will wait until the next post to provide guidance on how to best develop an IEP for a child with ADHD/ADD.

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Children with ADHD: Special Education & IEP Issues

In my experience, the largest percentage of children that I represent are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.  Most children may be diagnosed only with ADHD,  but some children have a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome and ADHD, Bi-Polar Disorder and ADHD, and so forth.  This is called a co-morbid disorder. In other words, there are some mental disorders that are common with other disorders such as ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder.  Did you know that approximately 20%-40% of all children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability? Many studies on this issue reveal that children with ADHD also have some type of specific learning disability as well. Why is this important?  When a child who is suspected of ADHD or ADD, the school system should consider assessing the child for a specific learning disability depending on other signs or symptoms.  Of course, not every child that is diagnosed with ADHD also has a specific learning disability. But you should at least be on notice there is a high percentage of children with ADHD that also have a specific learning disability. And some of the symptoms of ADHD may overlap with some of the symptoms of a specific learning disability. For instance, a child with ADHD may have fine motor control deficits.  A child with a specific learning disability may have dysgraphia or other deficits in handwriting.

Suffice it to say that every child with ADHD has common issues with other children with ADHD; but each child with ADHD also has strengths and weaknesses that are unique to that child. No all children with ADHD exhibit overt hyperactivity.  Of course, children diagnosed with ADD typically do not exhibit heightened hyperactivity or any hyperactivity at all.   ADHD is not monolithic, which means you cannot assume children with ADHD all have the same symptoms and educational deficits. They do not.  Some children have milder symptoms of this disorder while others have more severe symptoms. For those children with mild symptoms of ADHD, they may not qualify for special education and related services at all. They may not have a disability that adversely affects their educational performance and are in need of special educational related services. If so, these children will not have an IEP but rather they may qualify for an accommodations or Section 504 Plan.  To qualify for a Section 504 Plan, a child with ADHD has to show that he has a disability that significantly limits one or more major life activities.  In July 2016, the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Education, issued a very important memorandum on school system’s responsibilities to locate, identify, evaluate and provide a free appropriate public education for children with ADHD. See  https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-releases-guidance-civil-rights-students-adhd.  This is a very helpful and important memorandum on ADHD.  You can find a good summary of this memorandum at http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/office-for-civil-rights-issues-new-dear-97699/

You can find numerous resources and links on special education and ADHD. See http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/074193259501600106  The more you read and learn about your child’s  ADHD and his rights under special education laws, the better prepared you will be to deal with his special education needs. Again, it is important to note that all of the suggestions you may read about for children with ADHD may or may not apply to your child.  You should be careful to use only those suggestions that will help your child.  One way to be sure that you know what special education and related services may need is to secure a competent and extensive psychoeducational evaluation.  Such an evaluation is a building block to create an appropriate educational program for your child. There are so many other areas to cover for a child with ADHD and I will address some of them in my posts for the upcoming months.

 

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Is it Time to Revise, Amend, and Change Your Child’s IEP?

Requirements for Review of Child’s IEP. 

In the last post, I outlined what IEP and other issues you should consider as school begins for the 2017-2018 school year.  Now that school has been in session for about a month, what IEP issues should you be considering at this time?  A month is an incremental bench mark to determine how the school year is progressing. A month is probably not enough time to determine if your child is making adequate educational progress under this IEP. Usually a nine-week period – when parents should receive their child’s report card and progress toward IEP goals and objectives – is a better bench mark for making this determination. What parents should be looking for after four or so weeks of school is more about implementation of the IEP. In other words, is the school system implementation the special education and related services that you and the IEP tram agreed upon last school year?  Will it be time this semester to convene an IEP meeting with the school system to revise, change, or amend the IEP?  Maybe it may be time soon for you and the IEP team to meet to convene an annual IEP meeting. This will depend upon when your child was determined eligible for special education and an IEP was developed for your child.   If it is time to develop a new IEP because it is the annual review date, the school system will automatically notify you in writing of this meeting. This is because the IDEA requires  the school system to review, revise, change, or amend an IEP for your child at least one time a year. If you merely want to revise, change, or amend the IEP, then you must notify the school system to schedule an IEP meeting before the next annual review.

Why is Periodic Review of your Child’s IEP Important

After about a month after the school year begins, I may receive calls from parents that want to schedule an IEP meeting for certain reasons. For example, the child was experiencing educational problems toward the end of last school year.  These problems were not resolved at that time. Now the parents want to revise, review, and amend the IEP to address those problems.  Sometimes parents realize after a month or so after the new school year begins that the IEP is not working.  In other words, parents notice the child is not receiving the services and instruction set out in the IEP.  Sometimes the child begins to exhibit behavioral or learning problems that were not noticed at the end of the last school year.  There certainly could be many other reasons why parents want to schedule an IEP meeting after the school year begins.  Parents should not hesitate to schedule an IEP meeting earlier in the school year when they notice problems with their child.  If you wait until the spring or much later in the school year to address your concerns, then it is likely whatever educational  problems you noticed are now much worse.  Special education is part science and part art.  This means there are scientific or peer review researched services and/or instruction that can be implemented or developed that will benefit your child.  But in many cases – especially with behavior problems – it takes time to develop the right combination of positive behavior supports, services, and strategies – to make a noticeable difference in your child’s behavior.

How to Ensure Your Child is Making Educational Progress 

Perhaps the best advise I can give to parents who want to review their child’s educational progress toward goals and objectives is ask for documentation.  You should ask the school system periodically, or at least at every IEP meeting, for documentation that your child is making educational progress. You should ask for data sheets, narratives, or any other teacher generated report that shows how your child is progressing on his IEP meeting.  If there is no or little documentation, then you can assume the child’s teachers have not properly implemented the IEP.  If there is no or little documentation, you cannot determine if your child has objectively made educational progress. At IEP meetings, it is typical for teachers to say your child is making “good” progress at school. What does this mean? Unless there is objective evidence – such as data sheets, standardized or criterion referenced  tests,  or other scientific researched based method of determining your child’s progress – then you should not readily accept the standard response your child is making “good” progress at school.

Resources for IEP Meetings

There are plenty of resources on the Internet to review and secure information about IEPs. One of my favorites is www.wrightslaw.com  http://www.wrightslaw.com.  If you have any specific questions about your child’s IEP and whether you should request an IEP meeting, please contact me for advise and suggestions.

 

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School Begins – Special Education Evaluations

It is hard to believe but school is beginning for the 2017-18 school year. By August 7th, all school districts should be back in session.  You have had the summer to think about your child and whether  news issues need to be addressed. You should be thinking about whether your child needs a special education evaluation or additional evaluations.  I will illustrative this question with an example of a family I recently  interviewed.

The parent arrived at my office with her ten year old son.  She had concerns whether  school system was doing its job.  She wondered why her child was placed at the GNET Center.  She wondered why her child had behavior problems.  She had made an appointment for her child to receive a comprehensive special education evaluation at the Marcus Center.  After reviewing the school system’s evaluation, I confirmed that the Marcus Center would probably perform a much better special evaluation than the school system.  The child had been evaluated by the school system and found to be eligible under the category of intellectually disabled and speech and language impairment.  The evaluator, however, did not perform a speech and language evaluation on the child. The child was not referred to a speech and language evaluation therapist for an evaluation.  Further, the child was not referred to an occupational therapist for an evaluation. It was obvious to me that the child needed such an evaluation. Moreover, the child had difficult walking because his feet were at 45 degree angles due to surgery.  Again, it was obvious to me that the child needed a physical therapy evaluation. Nonetheless, the school system did not perform a physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech and language evaluation. Why?  I also thought the child would benefit from an assistive technology evaluation to determine what assistive technology and devices might be useful.

This is just an example of how school system do not perform proper and comprehensive evaluations for children with disabilities. Sometimes the school system simply does not refer a child for a special education evaluation at all.  This is likely a child find issue.  The school system has legal responsibility to locate, identify, evaluate a child who is suspected of having a disability. 34 C.F.R. 300.111.(c). For a child that is already determined eligible for special education and related services under the IDEA, the school system has a continuing duty to evaluate. The school system’s duty to evaluate a child does not stop at eligibility. this duty continues as long as the child attends school in the district. The school system must evaluate a child in all areas of related to the child’s suspected disability, including health, vision, hearing, emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication, and motor abilities. 34 C.F.R. 300.304(c)(4).

As a parent, I would determine now if your child needs a special education evaluation because he is suspected of having a disability. If your child is already receiving special education and has an IEP, I would consider whether he needs additional evaluations in any areas where he has a need for special education and related services such as occupational, physical, and speech and language therapies.

If you have any questions about this topic, let me know.

 

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