I’ve been called in to copious IEP meetings after a parent has presented a medical diagnosis for their child at their IEP meeting. They are disheartened after the team, or truly, the other side of the table, fails to qualify their son/daughter for any services. There are often two issues at play. The first is that the presence of a disability doesn’t automatically qualify a child for individualized services and two the school somehow feels compelled to ignore the diagnosis of the medical doctor or say the child in question doesn't qualify for services.
The diagnosis is the first step. Then your child needs to also have trouble accessing the curriculum. The Individuals with Disabilities Act, or IDEA, states the child with a disability only qualifies if they meet one of the disability categories, which are listed below, requires special education and related services.
*Side note: IEP are supposed to be strength-based documents. That means it should not read as page after page of what your son or daughter can’t do, but what they can do.
Back to the topic at hand, If your child is going to qualify for special education services, the team will need to identify:
The school is going to be looking at a multitude of ways to qualify or in some cases, not qualify, your child. Remember, even though they won’t admit it, there is someone holding the purse strings. They may not be present, but don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t in the room. Here are some methods that may be used.
Before your meeting, be prepared and have documentation showing that your child is not making effective progress. If they’ve had an evaluation, learn what the test scores mean. For example, let’s say the school conducted an evaluation to determine your child’s reading level. They sent home a report that says your child is reading in the low average. Fair enough. You learn the average range is 90 to 115. Now when you look back to your child’s score sheet, you see their score was a 75. I will agree it is low, but it is not average. Low is 90, 91, 92, but it is not 75, These are common place tactics used by school districts.
Unfortunately, you must become an expert in not only your child’s disability, but laws, services, programs, etc. Everything and anything must be in your wheel house to help your child get the programs, services, and accommodations they need to access the curriculum along with their neurotypical peers.
What happens when the school refutes the doctor’s diagnosis?
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been in an IEP meeting a teacher or administrator refuses to accept the diagnosis. I once attended a meeting where there the teacher gleefully stated that she disagreed with a dyslexia diagnosis from a doctor who had not only dedicated his life to the study of reading challenges but had been a founding member of state’s first dyslexia clinic at a major hospital. It was one of my more dumbfounded moments.
If this is the route the school wants to travel down, it is vital that you get it in writing. Once the meeting is over, you must use your notes or the notes that were taken by your spouse, friend, Mom, Aunt (always bring a back up note taker) and sit down and write a letter identifying who refused to accept the diagnosis and their reason why. You will also want to ask them for prior written notice. You are asking them to respond in writing on how they came to this diagnosis. You may see they reverse course and are willing to discuss qualification for your son or daughter.
The Oak Tree Academy mission is to improve the quality of life of people with language-based learning disabilities and their families by developing programs and disseminating knowledge based on current research.