Whether some school administrators do not know special ed law or choose to manipulate facts to insure requested support for your child does not happen, it is clear that many decisions are made that are not based on fact. Parents with children diagnosed with ADHD come to these meetings with emotion and conviction, knowing that their child is struggling and not really having a knowledge base to make changes. Meeting with school professionals can be quite daunting. Meetings generally include several people who we parents assume are experts and desire to help children succeed. Certainly, in many cases, there are several who do want to make a difference. But many times, the person or persons who can actually make things happen are not present. Sometimes they are there and they know that many parents because of intimidation and lack of knowledge, will go away after they are told that their child is just not eligible to receive services.
What are some of the statements made to parents that sadly push them away and are false? Here are a few..
- 504’s are only for those who have a physical disability. RESPONSE: 504’s are part of a 1973 Disability Act that provide accommodations for physical and mental disabilities to level the playing field.
- In order to receive an IEP, there must be a minimum of a 21% discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability. RESPONSE: Sounds official, doesn’t it? This was actually told to one of my clients. In reality, the IDEA says schools are not required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability when deciding on eligibility for special ed services.
- “He can do this work if he tries. He did it yesterday. Maybe he is a little lazy.” RESPONSE: This is said too much to families and it is heartbreaking. This is a total disregard to the struggles of ADHD. This inconsistency in work is very common with this medical diagnosis and reflects difficulties in working memory, focus, and organization. All of those are under the umbrella of executive functioning. This disability does require school support when the symptoms do limit educational access. Objective data is imperative as you move through this journey of advocating.
- “Your child’s grades are ok and he is not failing. Therefore, he is not eligible for any support.” RESPONSE: Grades DO NOT determine Eligibility. The limited access to education many times does affect grades. And this issue only worsens over time as the child begins to have multiple teachers with different expectations and long term projects necessitating executive functioning skills that are many times compromised.
- RTI, Response to Intervention, is often introduced when a child is struggling and the reason unknown. Research based instruction is introduced in areas of difficulty to reinforce skills in children who may not have a specific disability. Parents must go through this process before requesting evaluations. RESPONSE: Absolutely untrue! At any point during that process the parents can decide that those practices are not producing results and can request an educational/neuropsychological evaluation.
Our kids deserve better than misinformation. They are learning about themselves and how their disability is affecting their success. They need effective support to feel successful and to use strategies to move forward in their education. It is a difficult environment for them at times and at some point, they find their passion. In the meantime, let’s help them accomplish expectations set for them.