Monday, August 22, 2011

To IEP or Not... That is the Question

Tonight I just finished writing my son’s 504 plan for our meeting tomorrow. Basically, the principal meets with me and the teacher to go over any accommodations we’re requesting to help my son succeed in the school year ahead. Because we’re fortunate that he’s still performing well academically and the school is meeting all of our needs, we haven’t created an IEP yet.

But I still wonder.

Should I have an IEP in place before he starts middle school a year from now? I had this discussion with my therapist and he mentioned that it was possible we wouldn’t qualify for an IEP because my son was getting good grades. What are your thoughts and experience in this area, I would love to know!

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A link to a resource I used from CABF for educating my son’s teacher about his disorder:


  1. Mama Bear~ Most likely your son will not qualify for an IEP. I am a former special ed teacher and I've been this route with my son's school so although my special ed training is old I can speak for the current rules. If your son is not struggling at school then they will say his disorder is not impacting his education. I'm sure you've had your son tested. If there is no discrepancy between his ability and achievement scores then he wouldn't qualify that way either. The school will only write an IEP and have your son enter into their special ed program if he is unable to learn because of his disorder.
    My son is the model student at school. Which on one hand I'm thankful for because I don't get calls from school. On the other hand it makes it hard for me to advocate for him. He has a 504 plan as well. I'm thankful he at least has that. I'm worried about middle school too but trying to take it one day at a time right now.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jewel! I agree with you that he may not qualify. But I have also never had him tested. Should I get the testing done to see if there are any problems that we are not aware of before he moves on to middle school?

    Also, did you disclose with the school your son's diagnosis, or did you keep it vague with the staff and just requested accommodations, only disclosing some symptoms?

  3. Your son should qualify under OHI Other health impairment. We have found that an IEP enables a more communicative relationship with the school while also helping to have a paper trail for incidents that occur naturally with our child like the violent outburst. because we have this it allows the school a little leeway in addressing these, and avoiding suspensions that our daughter cannot understand

  4. This is a hot-button topic for me. Last year I met several times with the school and had to fight tooth and nail to even get a 504. I even went up to the head of sp. ed. in our huge school district and she met with me/us. That meeting alone there were nine people in attendance. Long story short, they were basically unwilling to help since they didn't see it at school. I got very tired of fighting since during that time there was so much constant discord at home. After months and months of trying to work something mutually agreeable with the school, I decided to homeschool for his fifth grade year (and possibly beyond that). He is doing great and I think he's learning so much. I surely hope that you get what your son needs in his 504. Like the previous commenter said though, through OHI, your son and mine should automatically qualify and by law do qualify. I could have fought that with our school district, but I was tired of the fight.

  5. Mama Bear, I agree with what Anonymous said. Bug's school is great anyway, but I do feel that having an IEP makes the staff more willing to accommodate her and more open to my requests.

    As far as disclosing your son's diagnosis to the school, I think it could help you get the IEP. Bug's school actually came to us and said they wanted to test her in kindergarten. The tests showed she exhibited lots of "atypical" behavior, but because she was where she should have been academically, she didn't qualify for one. A year later, when we had her tested again and also had a written diagnosis for bipolar disorder from a psychiatrist, it was a different story. The school approved her for an IEP under the category of "Emotionally Disturbed." The tests can also help detect things like executive function issues, which lots of bipolar/ADHD kids have, and learning disabilities that may not be obvious.

  6. If your child does not show any signs of bipolar at school....keeps it together all day long and rages when s/he gets home...then your child will not qualify for an IEP. The schools only care about the academics of your child. If your child is raging at school or has behavior issues and it is impacting his academics then he can qualify for an IEP.

    Yes, I have disclosed everything to the school. They have seen both neuropsych reports we had done privately and have the psych report he had done through the school last school year. He has been diagnosed with many disorders...some more serious than bipolar but were discounted after further testing...and he didn't qualify for an IEP with any of those reports. I do suggest you have your son tested, Mama Bear, just to have documentation of any disorders he has. My son has several disorders. By having testing done several times we can see where he is progressing or not progressing. The school testing told us nothing....except he was fine academically which we already knew. We plan to have him privately retested a year from the date of his school testing.

  7. Thanks for the feedback. Just as Jewel mentioned, because my son is performing well at school and doesn't have rages there, the principal said that he does not qualify for the IEP. He mentioned that if needed in the future, we could do it then.

    In the meantime, we have many accommodations that the school is making for my son through the 504 plan. We met his teacher and really like her. She shared at the end of the meeting that she once had a 3rd grader with bipolar disorder and at one point he had to go off all meds due to heart issues. She said that he completely changed off the meds for the worse and it was then she saw the incredible benefit that meds can do for our kids.

  8. I'm glad you liked your son's teacher. Sounds like she will be understanding and hopefully very helpful. I'm hoping for a great school year for your sweet boy.

  9. My son has an IEP and it has helped tremendously. Like your son my son is doing well academically and doesn't qualify at this time for an IEP. With the exception of fine motor skills. He has to put a lot more effort than most into forming letters so that they are readable. This last year he had only minor behavior issues at school (although one of them was punching another boy in the face); most violent outburst are at home. To be honest sometimes I consider taking him off all meds so that the school can get a clearer picture in order to get him more help at school but that doesn't seem right. we are planning on enrolling him in a K-8 school next year as his current elementary school only goes through 5th, because I am worried about him going to a regular middle school. That might be an option for you to consider if there are any in your district.

  10. Terri-That's a great idea about changing schools to keep him in elementary. Unfortunately that isn't an option for us. Just the thought of middle school makes me queazy!

  11. ABSOLUTELY YES! We should talk about this one. I have MUCH to say about it. But seriously, PDog's IEP changed everything ... for the better.

    Seriously ... let's chat about this. :) <3 hugs!

  12. We requested an IEP, in writing, the first day of our daughter's 8th grade year. The district psychologist’s findings recommended the IEP without hesitation. However, since she scored high on the achievement tests, they declined the IEP. By the end of the school year they finally approved the 504. She failed 3 classes by only 1 or 2 points and they wanted her to go to summer school. We said absolutely NO summer school. It was the last thing she could tolerate at that point. They have since passed her to 9th grade after the “grade placement meeting”. We are so glad to have her start high school with the approved 504 at least. We (her parents) will evaluate her first couple months of 9th grade then decide weather or not to keep pushing for the IEP. (Good luck to us, right?)

  13. Anonymous- Wow! That sounds frustrating. I'm glad you at least got the 504 in place, it has been a huge help for us.

  14. if your son is performing well in scholl ,only rages at home he problably does not need an IEP,the less schooll work he does at home the better ,try a private teacher who can go to the scholl to do his homework with him it would take same of the rages away fron the household,plus activities a lot of them if can ,remember the less time in the house the better.

  15. Mama Bear,
    Don't listen too much what his principal says.
    If you want to know if your son can qualify _legally speaking_, check in the texts, laws and so one.

    Unfortunately (and I see it in France too :( ), a school, an agency, an administration... will tell you the wrong. The causes are many : they have never seen the situation before, they consider you as "the person who doesn't know because she is too stupid, we know better than anyone else", they are lazy and want to do the least possible, they consider that everyone pretends your son has a health impairment etc etc....
    Never rely on them to give the info.

    Rely on what the original law text says.
    Even if you are told your son can't qualify for an IEP, don't beat yourself up. Appeal, bring the texts, analyze them, make the most solid file you can.
    Don't let yourself discourage because they consider that your son doesn't qualify whereas legally speaking, he qualifies.
    Be careful about the academic tests : is it only a habit they have even when the texts state the contrary (unfortunately, I had this problem plenty of time in my country, so I can tell you first hand) ? The legal texts let school freedom ? etc etc....

    So read the laws, the acts and so on. Never rely on second hand info, rely only on the original texts.
    Unfortunately, to make your voice and your son's heard from school, agencies and any kind of administrations, you have to transform yourself in attorney :( (I am in the same boat as you with my ADHD in France, yuck !)