Are You Struggling with Your Child’s School?
Almost all children with learning and behavioral challenges have trouble in school. Sometimes the difficulties can be simply and informally addressed through discussions with your child’s teacher. If that does not succeed or only partially resolves the problem(s) then a more formal approach is usually taken, one in which an official meeting is scheduled either at your or the school’s request a Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) to examine in more depth what might be causing your child’s difficulties and, more importantly, what can be done to fully address and correct the problems.
Sometimes, the team decides that your child’s needs would be best served by assigning him Special Education status, especially when it is determined that there is a learning
disability involved. At this point a formal Individual Education Plan (IEP) is created with strategies specifically targeting your child’s challenges and to assist your child’s teachers going forward.
Other times, the team may decide that your child does not qualify for formal Special Education services, per se, but still needs some structured help beyond what might be considered normal classroom intervention. This is commonly the case, for instance, with children who demonstrate behavioral difficulties, often evaluated and diagnosed by outside health care providers. If these behaviors are deemed to be interfering with your child’s learning, another plan is created called a 504 Plan also known as an Other Health Impaired Plan (OHI). Think about it like Special Education Lite.
Currently, 504 Plans are most commonly designed to address behavioral problems like ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder , Pervasive Development Disorder, Aspergers, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, as well as various physical handicaps like low vision/blindness, hearing impairment all of which can but not necessarily do interfere with learning. It is in this behavioral realm, however, where many 504 Plans leave much to be desired and often lead to frustration of the parts of both parents and educators. Let me explain.
Schools see their responsibility as providing your child with the best education they possibly can. If your child has a behavioral problem that interferes with their mission, they often will include you as the parent to develop a plan aimed at solving the problem. Even if well-intentioned, these plans usually fail, often because they are not based upon sound behavioral principles. Recommendations I commonly see in these plans: preferential seating (code for having your child sit in the front of the classroom even if not appropriate), provide extra time for tests (even if not needed), repeat directions, etc.
In other words, I see the same old, tired recommendations over and over. If this is your situation, I can guarantee that you will be coming to PPT meetings for many years to come with a commensurate increase in the tensions between you and your child’s school personnel. Everyone appears to want the best for your child, but nobody seems to be able to deliver the goods. Meanwhile, your child is getting older, less and less prepared for the future and becoming turned off by school.
So what do you do? You panic, of course. Depending upon the severity of the situation, maybe you call up the principal and give her a piece of your mind. Maybe you even call a lawyer and threaten to sue the school because now you child’s grades ore dropping off. If it’s gone on long enough, maybe you pull your child out of the public school and into a private one. Maybe you decide to home school your child.
All of the above are options, of course, depending upon your situation. However, in most cases I have encountered, a collaborative approach with your child’s school is often going to be the most successful, all things considered. If you find yourself frustrated and in opposition to the manner in which your child’s education is being handled, try enlisting the help of an outside professional to assist you in navigating the often complex and confusing world of Special Education, someone who will advocate for you and your child to get the education they deserve. Only if that fails would I consider requesting a “Due Process” hearing, a quasi-legal process that engages the help of personnel outside your child’s school system to resolve the problem. If still unsatisfied, you can initiate formal proceedings. Unfortunately, by the time the situation has gotten to this point the child has gotten lost in the fray.
In sum, if you’re frustrated, don’t give up. Use what’s available. If still unsatisfied, get outside help.