Why Some Schools Avoid IEP Eligibility Testing

Many parents with struggling students assume it will be simple to ask their child’s school to evaluate him or her for IEP eligibility. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan for children with disabilities and learning differences that prevent them or their peers from accessing the curriculum. Parents are often confused and bewildered when schools kick the can down the road, so to speak, and proper evaluation and support for struggling students never seems to materialize. Find below some reasons that schools may attempt to avoid IEP eligibility testing, even when a parent feels strongly that evaluation is warranted.

Money – School systems have budgets just like other businesses do. While federal dollars help pay for special education, if a school system’s special education budget exceeds the federal allowance, then local school systems pay the difference. Schools may hesitate and convince parents to take a “wait and see” approach, not for the benefit of the student but for the benefit of the county budget.

School “report cards” – Public schools receive a “report card” from their state at the end of each year. School admins will work hard to keep certain benchmarks and statistics in a category that is better than the state average. For instance, school admins want their standardized test scores to exceed the state average and their percentage of students receiving special education to be below the state average. Understanding your school’s report card can help you interpret IEP avoidance behavior within your child’s school.

Staffing shortages – While federal regulations state that school personnel are responsible for finding and evaluating students with special needs, staffing shortages can lead to delays in correspondence and willingness to evaluate struggling students.

Difficult administration – This one is harder to accept, but some admins are just not special needs friendly. I’ve seen it first-hand, and it’s not easy for parents in that situation to have a pleasant relationship with those who want to alienate special needs families and ignore federal mandates.

Educational impact – Parents must understand that sometimes a student’s particular struggles or diagnosis may not have educational impact. If school personnel truly do not see a student’s issues affecting schoolwork or behavior, the school can refuse to perform an IEP evaluation.

I believe my child needs an IEP evaluation, but the school is stalling. What do I do?

Make your case!

  1. Every time you have a conversation and/or meeting with a teacher, counselor, or administrator about your child’s education, immediately follow up with an email summarizing the interaction. This will create a backlog of data to help you prove that IEP evaluation is warranted.
  2. Document struggles and any poor grades or other difficulties in a timeline. Keep notes with dates and work samples to help you make your case. Ask to see your child’s benchmark scores throughout the year to see if they are below grade level.
  3. Once you have some data that supports your assertion that your child is a struggling student and may qualify for an IEP, send an email to your child’s teacher and the assistant principal asking for IEP evaluation. Use this template to help you document struggles and avoid any delay tactics from the school.
  4. Focus on the goal, not the “noise” from the school. Treat this situation like you are in a business setting. You are in the business of helping your child access a free and appropriate education. Let everything you do and say be about that goal, and as much as possible, avoid emotional emails and statements.

With a little prep work and planning, your child can get the IEP evaluation he or she needs to be successful. Need more help? Email me at [email protected].

How Do I Do it? Grace and Whiskey!

whiskey sundayHow do I do it? Grace and whiskey.

Through the years, several friends have said to me, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I muster as much southern grace as I can to deal with life’s difficulties when they inevitably come my way. As the parent of a child with high functioning autism and the daughter of someone with schizo-affective disorder, I have had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with many families whose children and loved ones are dealing with complex medical needs and much more severe forms of neurological and mental disorders. I feel so very fortunate that my child is high functioning enough to respond to and benefit from the myriad of interventions that we have made available to her, and I feel for those whose family members will not be able to progress as she has. While high functioning autism has brought us certain difficulties, it has certainly brought us many gifts, including a better perspective on how to have fun whenever and wherever we can and repeated lessons in not sweating the small stuff. When I run out of grace, there’s always whiskey.

In actuality, I don’t drink whiskey very often, but when I do, it’s always delicious and always fun! We love whiskey and bourbon here at Grace and Whiskey. Tell me, what brand should I try next?

Already sampled:
Woodford Reserve
Whistle Pig
Jack Daniels
Jack Daniels Single Barrel
Winter Jack
Gentleman Jack
Jim Beam
Johnny Walker Black Label
Angel’s Envy
Slow & Low
Maker’s Mark
Maker’s 46
Chicken Cock
Forged Oak
Basil Hayden’s

My palate is happy to try whiskey at any price point. What’s your favorite whiskey or bourbon?







A Good Day

February 2012

It was a good day… one of the best we’ve had in a while. She was happy today, genuinely happy, with smiles and giggles and real conversation. It was such a lovely change from what we’ve been dealing with the last several months… repetitive behaviors, self-injuring, grunting to communicate her mood, and behaviors associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. I loved so much being able to relax a little bit and just listen to her play with her brother without that constant walking-on-egg-shells feeling. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but today was good… no phone calls from the school, no emails from the teacher, and no tears or proclamations of malcontent when she got home.

The day ended with me going into her room to kiss her goodnight and turn down her blankets as I normally do. I adjusted the heavy weight blanket that helps keep her calm so she can fall asleep and turned on the white noise machine that drowns out neighborhood sounds. She pulled my grandmother’s old rocking chair to the middle of the room for her nightly reading session and sat her little desk chair in front of it so she could rest her feet while she rocked back and forth. She needs the rocking motion to calm her nervous system but is still too small for her feet to reach the floor. She then grabbed her sensory ball and shoved it under her chin to stop the constant and often painful nodding of her head, a motor tic caused by her anxiety that is relentless when she’s reading.

The sensory ball was not getting the job done tonight. It was causing irritation as she nodded against it, preventing her from drifting into the “fairy world” she enjoys when she’s had enough of this one. I immediately noticed the irritation. “It’s moving and bothering me,” she said. I set out on a mission to find a better solution, grabbing several balls of different sizes and textures from the toy bins in her brother’s closet. None of them were right, she told me, for various reasons. Realizing the type of item I needed to find, I hurried to the playroom to grab some small stuffed animals. I found a little dog that seemed like just the thing. It was soft but sturdy, and the space between its front and hind legs would be just wide enough for her to fit around her neck to rest her nodding chin, minimizing the pain and disruption to her reading. I took it to her. “Look,” I said, placing it around her neck. She giggled, “I like it.” As I tried to kiss her goodnight and tell her I love her, she gave me a wave and a little nod without looking at me that meant, “I want to be alone.”

As I shut her door, I looked at her for a moment in a scene that looked unusual at best and downright weird at worst: a tiny child sitting in an odd position with a stuffed dog tucked under her chin, rocking, and reading a book at lightning speed… a child who no longer wanted to interact with me because she was quickly going in her mind to the place she goes when she needs a break. Sadness crept in to our good day, sadness that it takes so much work for her to be able to read a book, sadness that she needs to mentally go to another place so often, sadness that it’s been so rough for her the last few months, and sadness at the prospect that her mild autism and accompanying anxiety will be our life-long companions. It was a good day, and I’m trying desperately to enjoy it.