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Aug
25

Ever since my son started school, his teachers told me that he was easily and often distracted, but he was bright and he was doing well in school. He had no real behavioral problems until he started middle school. During 6th grade, he was bullied for several months. During this time he began to act out – he had a lot of anger, hurt and frustration. This continued until I was able to have him moved to another team (teaching team) so he’d be away from his tormentors. Once he was moved he seemed fine again – behavioral issues seemed to disappear.

Seventh grade brought more behavioral issues. During the 4th quarter of the school year, upon discussion with the 7th grade guidance counselor and administrator, I decided that I wanted to have my son evaluated by the school for learning and/or behavioral issues. Well into the 8th grade there was no progress toward the evaluation process and my constant phone calls to the 8th grade guidance counselor proved to be useless. I watched his grades drop to almost failing and frankly I was appalled that none of his teachers seemed to be concerned as they advised me of his slipping grades. I expressed my concerns and said that I thought he may have ADD or something along those lines, but I received no support from teachers…rather they dismissed that possibility and said that he just thinks he’s “too cool.”

I decided to take him for private testing and it was revealed that he has ADHD-combined type. In addition, he has very low processing speed, some executive dysfunction (apparently common in ADHD) and some other related issues. With report in hand and email, I still hit a brick wall with the school. I quickly learned that it’s the squeaky wheel that gets heard….by the county school board, school area psychologist, almost every ESE person in the county! They finally agreed to hear me out.

Kevin was given an IEP. I don’t feel that this is a bad thing as some posters have stated. First of all, the IEP is designed with the input of the school board psychologist, ESE teachers for the school, grade guidance counselor, parent and child. The goals are not implemented without parental consent (per my experience). The goals are in effect for one year and then progress must be reviewed. If the child is found to be succeeding in accomplishing goals, they can be modified accordingly. Parents also have the option to request an interim review of the goals. My son doesn’t have ESE services, rather accommodations and goals. I cannot speak to the process of how the IEP works when a child must be outside of a general ed class or has special services in place.

For my son, he has been able to make great strides because of the accommodations provided in his IEP. Because of his processing issues, he was not able to complete standardized tests – which in Broward County determine whether a child promotes to the next grade level. Because his tests were incomplete, his grades were low. His IEP provides him 200% time for tests (and all tasks). With the additional time, he was able to complete the tests and did amazingly well, scoring very high, near perfect on one. He has almost never used the additional time for his everyday tasks, but I’m glad to know that he has the accommodation if necessary.

Leslie Cedeno is a working mom who lives in Florida with her two sons. For the last three years, she’s been employed as a staff grant writer for a nonprofit agency providing emergency shelter and services to homeless men, women and children.


     

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  • Melody Says:

    Leslie, you ROCK! Kudos to you. :)

  • Pat R. Says:

    Thanks for addressing the positive side of IEPs. They give you power and your child a chance. Like you, I had to go outside the school system to get my child tested. When the school utterly failed to address the issues revealed, I hired a professional education advocate. My child is now in a private school with an individualized learning approach. His grades have soared, he’s working above grade level in math and reading, he’s making friends for the first time and LOVES school. 100% of his tuition is paid by the school district. All because of an IEP!

  • Joan Azarva Says:

    I am not surprised that administrators turn a blind eye to students in trouble – after all, their goal is to watch the bottom line. Teachers, however, who enter the profession for the satisfaction of touching lives of young people, should feel a tremendous responsibility for preventing students from falling through the cracks. Furthermore, they are supposedly trained to recognize “red flags”. How can they rationalize allowing this to happen to your son? Had it not been for your astute maternal instincts, who knows how this story would have unfolded? Parents who trust that schools have their child’s best interests at heart are naive. A school is a business, like any other, and politics plays a big role. It is unfortunate that often the parents who make the most noise get served. What happened to the idea of schools “nurturing” our kids?

  • clh Says:

    Leslie, I’m so glad you persevered, for the sake of your son and yourself!
    We accomplished much the same thing with a 504 plan, but it seems that in your case the school allowed things to go way too far. My daughter was also bullied (in 1st & 2nd grades!), and that really messed her up as far as social interactions and her ability to concentrate. She perseverates on things that usually aren’t even happening. We finally moved her to a neighboring school district, but unfortunately the damage was already done. Our current school district is very good about working with us and our daughter, and we are making progress. The new school year is just around the corner, and although anxiety is high, we have every hope that this year will be even better.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    Hi Pat,

    That’s wonderful that your son is doing so well in school! It’s imperative that a parent does not accept apathy from the school and follow your instincts when it comes to helping your child. Congrats on the scholarship! We were also eligible for McKay, but it didn’t work out for us. I have enrolled my son in an excellent public school (1st year or high school!) and I couldn’t be happier.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    Joan,

    I completely agree with you. I couldn’t believe my ears when I tried to discuss this with the teachers and grade administrator. I told one teacher I was concerned about ADD and her answer was that “he just thinks he’s too cool”. During a parent-teacher conference I expressed my concerns about his grades and the length of time it would take for him to complete a simple assignment – to the whole team of them – and they could only answer that it shouldn’t be like that. Not one thought any of this was a red flag. You’re right, they are supposed to be trained to see the signs, but they are so overloaded themselves they just want to get through the day/year – 3,000+ kids in a school is ridiculous!!

    Parents have to keep their eyes and ears open and educate themselves about everything they possibly can. Follow what your gut instincts are telling you.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    clh,

    The bullying does damage the child’s self esteem. My son came home for months full of anger and frustration. The school administration did almost nothing and would’ve done nothing if I didn’t call them and demand some action (threatened pulling him from school and I got some results with that). After a while, things calmed down, but the following year was a nightmare. I guess in him mind it was “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” He wasn’t really bullying so much as just running his mouth, trying to be “bad”, cool, whatever. He felt he was “in” with the bad crowd, which I believe is how he protected himself from further bullying. This created a huge problem for two years. He’s finally moved out of that stage and determined to focus on doing his best in high school and staying out of trouble. The good thing about a new school and a new school year is that you now have a clean slate to recreate yourself and your image, who you want to be and where you want to do.

    Good luck this year!

  • rfsangelica Says:

    I agree with you. My 16 year old is on an IEP, but they are saying that her falling grades are due to anger management issues, and will not test her for anything else. The doctors say it could be ADD but not ADHD, but even they won’t test her. And it started with her also in the 6th grade. She is nasty to me and her step father, she treats her 7 yr old sister, and 3 yr old brother like dirt and I just don’t know what to do with her anymore. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    Hi rfsangelica,

    I am going to assume that “they” would be the school and you mention your dr.’s. I don’t understand how they can refuse to run a test if you request it…it’s not physically invasive…strange. I went to a private agency and had my son tested by a nationally certified school psychologist. My son also had behavioral patterns that included fighting, authority issues, disrespect, inappropriate comments, etc. From what I’ve read – and hopefully I’ve understood correctly – often the “HD” manifests itself with inappropriate behavior, not only hyper “bouncing off the wall” type of behavior. Also, the executive function deals with appropriate behavior. Testing revealed evidence of executive dysfunction. The tests included:
    1. Psychodiagnostic Interview (parents)
    2. Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth
    Edition (WISC-IV)
    3. Beery VMI Developmental Test of Visual Perception –
    Fifth Edition
    4. Beery VMI Developmental Test of Motor Coordination – Fifth Edition
    5. Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor
    Integration – Fifth Edition
    6. Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Ability (WJ-
    III) (selected subtests)
    7. Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III)
    8. Wide Range Assessment for Memory and Learning –
    Second Edition (WRAML-2)
    9. Behavior Assessment System for Children – Second
    Edition (Teacher Rating)
    10. Behavior Assessment System for Children – Second
    Edition (Parent Rating)
    11. Behavior Assessment System for Children – Second
    Edition (Self Rating)
    12. Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive
    Functioning (BRIEF-Parent Form)

    Hopefully an expert will read this and advise. Good luck to you and don’t give up!

  • Tinkerbell Says:

    It’s sad to say that parents hve to go through this kind of work to get help for thier children, I had a similar experience with my youngest son, now 14 years old and starting first year in high school. Like Leslie, my son started his problems in the middle school, he started lying, obnoxious, disrespectful, doesn not want to follow rules progressing to cutting classes and stealing. It took me over a year to get the school to realized that he needed the IEP badly. I also resorted to outside help, psychologist and psychiatrist. As he moved on to 8th grade, he failed classes left and right and I had to employ a tutor to help him with the subjects and to avoid him being left back. I had to utilized ” no child left behind” and going to the school board then to the superintendent of schools. My son eventually got the evaluation he need, the class size he needs to be in, the time to complete all his work and passed 8th grade successfully.

  • Roxie Says:

    It would be nice if I knew what an IEP is or what ESE means. I’d bet this article would make more sense.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    IEP = Individualized Educational Program

    ESE = Exceptional Student Education

    Hope that helps!

  • askcarrienow Says:

    Wow Leslie. I can’t believe what you had to go through. We are just starting this journey with our first grade son, who we believe has Asperger’s. We are in Palm Beach County in a public Montessori school, and I brought my concerns to them yesterday and got a quick response from the school guidance counselor. I don’t know if we will wind up with an IEP, some informal accomodation, or what, but I am hopeful that we are in a fortunate situation because of the school we are in. I am with you all the way on the squeaky wheel action! If we do not get the help we need, I will be so present and so annoying I will eventually wear them down. In a nice, ladylike way of course. LOL! If you’re willing to share any other information, my screen name here is my email on gmail. Congratulations to your son on the success he is now experiencing! Carrie

  • cynshina Says:

    Thank you for pointing out the importance of being you child’s best advocate. My son had an IEP in grade school for speech and everything always went well. Middle school came and within 2 months our world changed with his behaviors. I called a meeting and found out that my earlier experience was not to be repeated. I fought, argued, demanded and called the school system, finally getting some suport services, yet feeling like there was something missing and no how many times I expressed concern the staff blew me off. A year later with me still looking for answers my son was diagnosed with vision problems, which explained all the peices I felt were missing. most valuable lesson NEVER give up.

  • ociana Says:

    I had similar problems with my son and I finally pulled him out of public school and I am homeschooling him.

    At least he is not being targeted at school anymore by teachers as a trouble maker.

    Other students picked on him too, and if he retaliated, of course, he being the touble maker, was the one thrown out of class.

    He is doing well at home. We have our days, but for the most part, he is doing much better.

    He was also accused of just “acting” and not really having any problems.

    I had him tested in school (after much persistance), and they claimed he was “fine.”

    When I had him tested out of school, he was diagnosed with ODD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

  • adelanoval3 Says:

    When teachers are of no help and school don’t offer assistance…
    How does a parent obtain an IEP?

    Each state, different school districts, or even different schools in the same district, have different guidelines when it comes to the specifics, but all must follow the rules set forth in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which entitles every child to a free, appropriate public education (known as FAPE). It is the definition of what constitutes a FAPE where each school district and state differs.

    The first step in the process, no matter the locale, is to request that the school evaluate the child to see if he or she should have special services. Teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and professionals such as psychologists will gather information (from the child’s parents, doctors, etc.), perform tests and observe the child over a specified amount of time. It is at this point that a parent should receive a copy of “Parents Rights in Special Education: Notice of Procedural Safeguards.” This booklet will outline the rights of parents and children as specified by that state. It also contains local resources for parents.

    After the initial evaluation, the parent will review the recommendations. The parent can agree in part or in whole. The parts that the parent agrees with will be implemented and a compromise on the others will be made at some future time or will not be implemented at all, depending on the consent of the parent. A parent does not have to agree to any or all of the recommendations. If he or she does not agree, there is a due process that is outlined in the Notice of Procedural Safeguards for the parents to follow.

    If a FAPE cannot be made with the IEP, a parent has the right for the child to attend another school at the cost of the school district, but certain guidelines must be followed first. Those guidelines vary by state and can be found in the Notice of Procedural Safeguards.

    If a child has behavioral problems, the IEP process can be utilized to work as a behavioral contract between the school personnel, the student and the parent(s). The goals contained in the IEP will be specific to that child’s actions that were a struggle in the past and contain strategies for how to help the child overcome the struggles. This is where the parent can best influence how the school will handle the child’s misbehavior and make it streamlined with how things are handled at home.

  • Leslie Cedeno Says:

    Adelanoval3,

    Thanks for posting this great information.

    Some of the frustrations that I had encountered was the fact that we went from one school year into the next with no help at all. The school kept assuring me that the evaluation was coming but it never did and my son continued to struggle behaviorally as well as academically. Once I had the report from the private psychologists, I gave it to the school and still had to fight to get them to review it. I was told by the school board’s psychologist and ESE people that just because I had this report that recommended the IEP (and it was very specific), the school is not required to follow the recommendations.

    In the end we did get the IEP, however, there were more problems with the implementation. I had transferred Kevin to a charter school once I had the IEP in hand…they had promised 11 kids in the class and they would have no problem working with the IEP. Well, less than 30 days later, the ESE teacher began telling me she was trying to “wean him off” the IEP. The plan is in place for a one year period…she had no business even contemplating such a thing! When they repeatedly failed to provide any evidence of following the plan among several other things, I transferred him back to the original school. They did a little better job with it, but they definitely didn’t follow the plan as agreed upon.

    This year my son is in high school and the school is doing an amazing job. I can’t believe how responsive they are to helping him and ensuring his success.

    I guess in summation, there are a lot of guidelines and resources available to help students in need. Parents need to research as much as they can and trust their instincts. All these “Acts” and guidelines are in place to help but they are only beneficial if implemented properly. If you feel they are not, make noise and do everything in your power to get things straight…another parent mentioned a student advocate…whatever it takes.

  • Kristi Says:

    My personal experience was that once I put my request for an IEP evaluation in writing, and I sent it to the teachers, school counsellor, and principal, things started to happen. In our school district, once this is done, it starts the clock on deadlines when the testing/evaluations and meetings need to be completed. Good luck.

  • ParentingAgain Says:

    Kristi is absolutely right! I have my Great Grandson, now adopted son, in Middle School with an IEP through 504. He is severly affected with ADHD. When one deals with the school, a physician, or healthcare worker of any kind DO IT IS WRITING as much as possible. I NOW always have a copy of everything that pertains to the discussion and offer a copy to those present. Until I began doing this I got no where with my requests for testing or accodomations. At one meeting a person told me something could not be done and the Assistant Principal said, “Oh yes it can. She knows what can and cannot be done. Mrs. H has studied and has her ducks in a row.” The spoken word is almost as if it didn’t happen, but the written words through emails, letters, and documents are proof of what has transpired. Keep on keeping on! Persistence pays off.

  • Jakeysmom Says:

    wow, what a timely discussion for me! Meeting tomorrow with the school to try to get an IEP in place for my son after they’ve dropped the ball in just about every way you all have already mentioned…for years…I’m intrigued by the “vision problems” Cynshina mentioned. Can you describe further? One of the tests my son took was the SOI test and it indicated some vision problems, but I didn’t/don’t quite understand what that meant. Also, Ms. Cedeno–can you tell me more about the relationship between executive dysfunction and behavior issues? I’m sitting here surrounded by test results that each explain a part of my son, but nothing is clear cut. Anyway, thanks to all posters for great, helpful comments!

  • Jakeysmom Says:

    Whoops, sorry, forgot to ask a key question–my son also has slow processing speed in a brilliant mind (plus early speech issues and anger issues that all seem related). Ms. Cedeno, can you tell me some of the interventions/accommodations you got the school to implement, besides the longer testing times? Thanks!

  • Lacedeno Says:

    Hi Jakeysmom,

    The only accomodation that the IEP provides for processing speed is the 200% time. He has no services, just accommodations and goals.

    The psychologist who tested Kevin advised me of some high tech test that involved – I think it’s called Interactive Metronome – basically the kid wears some electronic gloves to track signals…a report can be generated from this. She told me that most kids find it boring and that, although this has research behind it, the Rock Band or Guitar Hero games provide the same exact interaction but the kids enjoy it. What it is…the kids are using their vision, auditory and motor skills in unison…watching and listening for cues and executing with thier motor skills. Kevin loves to play the Rock Band drums. The level of difficulty progresses with the child’s successful play. She said 20 minutes a day is good practice. Doing some timed reading, writing or math exercises at home was another recommendation.

    His reading teacher told me that reading 20 minutes a day plus reading out loud for 5 minutes will also help. Obviously, the more practice the better they get, but reading out loud lets them (and you) hear their progress and where they falter so that can be worked on improving. She also suggested that some kids do well recording themselves reading aloud if they are embarrassed or uncomfortable reading in front of others.

    If anyone is familiar with other strategies, please comment!

  • Leslie Cedeno Says:

    jakeysmom,

    Here are a couple of articles on executive function. Hope they help.

    http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/News/Executive-Function-Part-One-What-is-executive-function.aspx?articleID=8024&categoryID=news-type

    http://www.help4adhd.org/faq.cfm?fid=40&tid=9&varLang=en

  • trace Says:

    I would advise having a paper trail. I did put the request to get an evaluation to the principal and also had her pediatrician write a letter, and the school continually “lost” it. So I always xerox everything and have even come into meetings with emails I had printed out. Funny how some school districts willc omply and others will flat out break the law as subtly as they can if they know they can take advantage of you being naive or unaware of how the “process” works. I had to continually have issues with a prinicpal that was not interested in helping so I just kept at it even when it was so much easier to back down and then I contacted the school board and other people “higher” up. If you don’t go away, and even threaten to use your “rights” in the process (due process), it works. I would also suggest a parent advocate-they are free and know the law and it is a night and day difference how you are treated in meetings when you walk in there with one.

  • Lacedeno Says:

    Trace,

    You’re right about a paper trail. I try to email as much as possible so that I have everything in writing. If I have a phone call, if possible I will follow up with an email that sums up what we discussed…again creating a paper trail (for all matters, not just IEP).

    It’s a crying shame that the people in positions that are supposed to be helping children succeed are often the roadblock to that success. I have to wonder why.

    Can you advise how one may obtain a parent or student advocate?

  • trace Says:

    I found a parent advocate through my child’s intervention specialist when she advised me to get one “off the record” but then when you type in parent advocates on the internet, there are losts of resources. I was unaware that they were available at no cost or I would have gotten one years agao

  • trace Says:

    OOps, hit the submit button! If you are in the Ohio area, one number you can call is 513-621-3032 and the company’s name is Memorial Inc. There is information on ARC and webistes where you may be researching learning disabilities or your child’s rights. Also, I am looking into private testing for learning disabilites for my daughter since she currently does not receive help at school even thought I have a 504 and IEP for her. I was informed that some of the centers that test for learning disabilites also have advocates on staff and actually can help you get the services from school once you have the reports, especailly if you are dealing with resistance from a school that does not seem to think your child qualifies for services (despite your paperwork, reports, etc.) Hope that helps. I have been learning a lot from the internet, trial and error, and talking to other professionals and researching on the computer. It’s funny how the information is out there but no one tells you it is there or how to find it!