Sunday, February 5, 2012

Should We Pursue an IEP?

I recently asked our school if we could create an IEP for my son so we’re more prepared for middle school and also so my son can be placed in a special study class that will allow him to do his homework at school with staff support. Our principal responded that he didn’t think it was necessary since my son already has a 504 plan with accommodations. He also felt that the 504 suited my son better and provided more choices as far as accommodations in the regular classroom setting. His concern is that the IEP would put him with kids that are more behind than he is and who would model unwanted behaviors.

My problem is that the middle school told me that we needed an IEP to get the study skills class next year.

To support his opinion, the principal pointed out that my son is performing well under the 504 plan. I then shared that he’s currently receiving a D in math and almost all homework struggles are around math assignments. I explained that bipolar kids can have learning deficits in the areas of executive function and working memory making math with multiple-steps difficult. I told him that I wanted him tested in these areas to see if that’s why his homework is such a struggle and why he’s now even failing math tests on purpose just to get the exams over with.

The teacher felt that it’s just a lack of motivation on my son’s part. But when I read about the executive function and working memory problems in my resources, it explained that most bipolar kids will do good in english and spelling but struggle in math, even having a hard time keeping math facts memorized. It also pointed out that often teachers and parents assume that the kids are lazy and not trying hard enough, when in fact they can’t tackle what appears to be an undoable task.

I was wondering, have you had your child tested for an IEP?

Do you regret having an IEP, wishing you stuck with a 504 plan?

Did the IEP testing reveal any learning disabilities? If so, what kind?

I would greatly appreciate it if you could share your experience as I try and navigate these uncharted waters with our school.



21 comments:

  1. Well, you already know my opinion of this which is yes, definitely get the IEP. And the truth is that it does not matter what your principal or the teacher thinks - if you as a parent think there is a need for testing and you ask the school in writing for them to have him tested, they have to do it by law within a certain amount of time. Go ahead and request the testing and then go from there on getting the IEP. If he qualifies for the IEP, you can always refuse the IEP or refuse services within the IEP later if you don't want them.

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    1. That's good to know that if we don't like what is recommend we can reject it. That was one of our concerns, we didn't want to get stuck with their plan if we didn't feel it is best for our son.

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  2. Hmm, interesting question. For two of my boys, I had the battery of tests run and in one, there were some definite deficits just as you described. Any time a child has "Swiss Cheese" abilities (meaning strong in many areas with little holes or deficits that don't fit the rest of the learning) I am inclined to think there is more that "lack of motivation." Elementary kids are almost always people pleasers and the lack of motivation is usually a red flag for something else going on - processing deficit, learning issue, etc. My boys didn't have enough of a deficit to warrant an IEP, but it was close. I could totally get one son covered under the pervasive depression category, but then what would we do? He has no reason to be in resource, and the 504 is written very strongly and has the same accommodations as the IEP would allow. For us, we opted to keep the 504, but only because the IEP didn't give my son what he needed; in fact, what he needs doesn't really exist in our district. As a teacher and one who deals a lot with 504's and IEP's, my question is about the after school study class. I cannot understand why a class such as that requires an IEP, and why a 504 can't request it. Legally, that sounds like hooey. If your son needs the study class because of the disability that qualifies him for the 504, then he gets the class - that's how it is supposed to work. I'm guessing the class is funded with Special Ed money? If that's the case, I'd make them say that to you outright. In fact, I believe with the right arm twisting and finesse, they could allow him into the class. What most schools don't really understand is that filing a complaint with the US Office of Civil Rights will totally affect their federal money - just like an IEP not being followed. They will say that only the IEP has federal money tied to it, but that's not true. The reason I know this is because I am a teacher at a children's hospital and my job is to help my patients get the coverage allowed and then see to it the school follows those modifications/accommodations. When they don't, I file the complaint - and I've filed against schools for not following 504's. If I were you, I'd find out who the 504 coordinator is for your district, and have a conversation with that person about this class. If that doesn't get you what you want, email me. The testing can be good, too if just for general purposes, but the testing is only as good at the examiner. Sometimes a school district doesn't have the most skilled examiner performing the test. Does this help? Have I made it clear as mud? :) Good luck!

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    1. Thank you for the great insight! I was thinking the same thing with regards to the “swiss cheese” abilities. How can my son be earning As and Bs in everything else but have a lack of motivation in just one subject, wouldn't that be the case in all his subjects? It is an indicator that something else might be going on.

      Our 504 has a lot of accommodations that work pretty well for the elementary school, what we’ll need once he is in middle school is hard to know since we haven’t experienced it yet. I was concerned that the teachers would be less "in-tune" with him since they only have him for a period, where the teacher today can observe him for hours every day. She can make adjustments because she really understands him. I’m also concerned that all the class changes will be overwhelming since he has trouble with change, crowds etc. I feel like his stress may sky rocket once there.

      You make a very good argument with the "study skills" class. The middle school said that he wouldn't qualify since it is considered a service and you need an IEP for services, but I think you make a good point and it would be worth looking into, maybe our current principal can talk to the middle school staff on our behalf and we can get it written into his 504 plan.

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  3. I'm married to a high school principal, have one child with dyslexia, and another child with a mood disorder. We have found that a 504 plan works best for my kids FOR NOW. Switching to an IEP is not a bad or a good thing. It really depends on the individual school and how the teachers treat it. I recommend meeting with the middle school teachers that would see your son if he had an IEP. They WANT to get to know you and your son's needs, and they might have the best insight about what would be the most beneficial. Find out if there are team teachers: meaning your son would have the same science/math teacher and the same english/history teacher. A lot of middle schools do this. You can REQUEST the team/teachers you think would be best suited to your child. You are a great advocate for him, but excellent communication with the staff is second to none in this situation. And please remember too that our daughter still will not even set foot in school. At all. We're still just trying to get here there. So if your son is behind in math... well, at least he's there. :) Cathy

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    1. I never heard of team teachers, I’ll need to look into that, thanks Cathy!

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  4. I have to agree with Meg. Try to get an IEP. By law, your school has to test your son for one if you request it. It's possible, since you're in California, your principal and teacher are discouraging an IEP because of budget cuts. They have reduced resources for testing, and implementing services for, kids like ours due to the budget crisis, and this will only get worse in the next couple of years. In the special ed support group I belong to, I keep hearing how important it is to start middle school with an IEP if at all possible. Also heard one horror story from a woman who opted NOT to get her son's IEP reinstated in fifth grade, and he is now struggling in middle school and she is having trouble getting him the help he needs.

    Also, there are a variety of tests to choose from, and some are better than others for determining the areas your son may be weak in. I believe you have the right to request what tests the school should use. Among other tests, Bug was given the WISC-IV tests to evaluate her congnitive functioning and processing abilities and the Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch). The last one measures attention and concentration abilities in kids "diagnosed with or suspected of having attention difficulties." And this was the one that revealed Bug was way below average in all of these areas in spite of being in the average to high-average range in all her academics. So I would definitely ask for this test for your son.

    Like your son, Bug does well with spelling and vocabulary. She is a slow reader because she has trouble staying focused and with tracking what she's reading. She understands most of the math concepts her class is learning--she just takes way longer than most of the other kids to finish tests/worksheets because of her attention/organization challenges.

    Here's a link to an IEP toolkit that may be helpful:
    http://www.matrixparents.org/pdf/packetsArticles/IEP%20Tool%20Kit%20March%202011.pdf

    Sorry for the long response! Good luck, and keep us posted!

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    1. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out!

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  5. I think you should absolutely request testing. That will help inform your decision. I have one son on an IEP and one with the 504. We find it MUCH easier to get support needed with the IEP. Your son may or may not qualify for the IEP depending on the testing, so it would make sense to take that step first.
    Betsy

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    1. I find it strange that our school was resistant to the testing in the first place, it seems that would clarify things. The principal said it has nothing to do with money, but the teacher seemed pretty opposed to it. I was recently told by a friend that the teacher has a lot of work that falls into her plate if he does get an IEP with meetings and reports. I wonder if this is why she is opposed to the testing.

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  6. My daugher has an IEP. Her behavior was so disruptive and getting more and more agressive that the school moved fast (which they were not known to do)with the process. She went through all sorts of testing (academic, WISC, behavioral, social,psychiatric, etc). Up to that point we had only seen a nuerologist and therapist, both of which couldn't give us a diagnosis, so we were still searching. She does not have any known learning disabilities. The IEP has been the way to go for us, and as she gets older we can make changes and modifications to it. We were told she could even shed her IEP one day if she doesn't need. I feel like the IEP gives her a bit more protection (especially if she hauls off and hurts someone or we find she needs more time with testing and other accomodations). Her IEP includes a behavior plan. In our situation, my daughter is in a smaller class with other children just like her behaviors and mainstreams for specials (art, spanish, music, lunch, gym). Unfortunatly, my daughter is the only 1st grade girl in a class of 2nd-4th grade boys! But she is a tough cookie and learning lots! Our hope is to continue to mainsream as her behavior becomes more manageable and she learns coping skills. We finally go the right diagnosis that we feel good about (BP) and she just started medication and everyone knows how that goes, so it's going to take time. Also at her age, 6, she isn't able to really express her feelings and what is going on inside her. Right now, she says she has a fit because she doesn't want to do Math. Well that is not all that is going on inside her head.
    I have to ask if they can really deny the testing? I think you have the right to request it with the child study team. I would be hard pressed that they could win the argument and you can appeal. In my situation, they knew they had to do something and we, her parents, didn't know what was going on either. Since age 3, her behavior has been getting progressively worse and when she hit 1st grade (more stringent and demanding), she just exploded-everyday. I kept pushing it was her moods. Sometimes she was fine. It just depended. So it was apparent to all of us, we had to all figure out next steps. I am still happy she has the IEP. Until you have all the testing, I think then you can make your decision.
    Good luck! It's a lot of work but worth having that "security blanket" in my opinion.

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    1. I too want the protection of an IEP in case my son does something, I just learned that the protections aren't the same, yet my principal keeps saying it is. I really want that security blanket because I’m afraid of what the stress of middle school and the hormones will do to his school performance over the next few years, not to mention all the homework we have to cope with.

      At this time they haven't flat out denied it, but are constantly trying to "inform me" that he won't qualify since his state testing shows he is performing well. But the state testing doesn't take into account all aspects of his learning. I’m trying to figure out right now if he’ll qualify with his current challenges. I don't know that he will but I still need to figure this out before I go back to the principal.

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  7. I recommend having an IEP in place upon entry to High School and even Junior High. The law states that the 504 and the IEP MUST accomodate the child, and schools will not readily do that. The testing is challenging and lengthy for kids and can cause a stress all its own. Mandatory that you paper trail every single thing from now on: all documents, emails, printed and in a binder that you keep. Attend the meetings with the binder and take notes. Your son has rights and you will now be his advocate. Read "From Emotions to Advocacy" http://www.fetaweb.com/ to learn how to become an effective player on your son's team, he will need it.

    Teachers often do not like to 'deal' with 'high maintenance' students, or IEPs so they may give a hard time, do not allow that.

    Also, accomodations for appointments and medication dose changes (which can include behavior changes) can be accomodated also, without penalty or repercussions. Have a written and signed doctor's note stating the child is having a medical medication change and may miss school, or should be exempt from homework for 1 week; etc "as needed".

    The inclusive room should allow the child to also attend least restrictive class settings, so do not let them say its inclusion students only; many can come and go from that base room throughout the day to other classes, and yes DO the homework at school should be part of your fine print in your 504 or IEP. Also can be included in IEP "break times" where child can go to safe spot (counselor's office etc) to calm down if having a behavior challenging time during the day; rather than be sent home.

    Good luck.

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    1. I like your point about the accommodations with med changes and appointments. And having homework removed when needed. I think for us we HAVE to have homework at school to avoid a meltdown that may have consequences that we can't take back. I wish they understood what is at stake here.

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    2. The IEP is a legal document, once something is in that the school has to accomodate, so get the homework done at school (or reduced workload)IN the IEP or even the 504. This was in my child's IEP, the books did not come home, the work was done in class or study hall, and remember that you are going for a medical accomodation of a biological based brain disorder, those words work in this situation. The lack of support (you can say at a meeting) "will be detrimental to his health". This is imperative especially as time goes on with age in the school system. What you need to impress upon them is that the mood changes or meltdowns are symptoms of an illness he cannot control and a possible by product of the medications he is taking as well (that behavior is also out of his control).Example, if the student has to read 30 pages for homework, your son could have a reduced page count of 5 pages and an adjusted assignment.

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  8. Did anyone get an IEP even though your child wasn’t 2 years behind or had a learning disability?

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  9. Yes! Bug has always been where she should be academically and doesn't have a learning disability. She qualified for an IEP because she met the legal criteria for Emotional Disturbance. That's why it's important to make sure your son isn't just tested for academics and learning disabilities. He needs to be tested for social emotional functioning and behavior, and probably the TEA-Ch test I mentioned earlier to assess ADD/executive function issues. I'm pretty sure it is your legal right to request specific types of testing. And if the school pushes back, contact or write the district.

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    1. Can you tell me what qualifies for the legal criteria for Emotional Disturbance?

      Does a diagnosis alone allow this?

      Also, in our area, are there more legal protections for IEPs than 504s?

      I am getting a lot of push back from the schools. There was even mention that they could remove his 504 if his grades are good. Things are getting messy now.

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  10. You must remember this is LEGAL and your son has rights. The School Districts will never hand over IEPs or 504s if they can save a dollar and not do the testing or accommodations. In fact, if you seriously want your child accommodated, then call for a meeting with the district offices, school principal and teacher. First step will be mandatory testing (psychological, emotional, and IQ). The IQ test will be the thing that can give him a yes or no on an IEP, not a teacher saying grades are too good. That is common and a way your son is being discriminated against.

    They will not come to you unless your child becomes so out of control in the classroom the teachers forces the issue or placement into spec ed room and that does happen.

    How long you wait for the actual legal documented support for your son is up to you; now the advocate. Without a legal document (IEP, 504)your son is owed no accomodations by the teacher. By law the teacher DOES have to acknowledge what is on your 504. In the end it's all about money for the schools.

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    1. Sadly, you are right. My experience with the school is not going well, see my next post for details.

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  11. Hi Mama Bear,

    Sorry--I just now checked back and saw your question to my comment about Bug qualifying for an IEP under the category of Emotional Disturbance. I'm sure having an outside diagnosis helped. But the testing-psychological, emotional and attention--that Anonymous mentioned above--clearly revealed she was not in the "normal" range in any of these areas, despite having a high-average IQ and being where she should be academically. I have always considered myself extremely fortunate that my daughter's school has always wanted to help her--they were the ones who approached me about getting her tested in the first place back in kindergarten. I had no idea back then how rare this is, and it seems to becoming more so as schools deal with budget and resources cuts. From what I've read in your latest post, it doesn't sound like your school is being very cooperative.

    Bug's Mom

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