Get It in Writing

I am back in the middle of the IEP process, and I have one piece of advice: Get it in writing.

Grace has something of a novel for an IEP, and she is set.  I don’t have to fight for her services anymore thanks to the Department of Education stepping in and politely slapping our school district for breaking the law.  They just smile, nod, and say, “Whatever you want.”  This is a happy ending to what was a horrible, horrible process.

Milly has a new and improved IEP, and it’s actually implemented.  I am very happy about this.  We had to open enroll her in another school district for this, but one does what is necessary for a child with special needs.

Eadaoin’s new school was on the ball from Day One in terms of recognizing that she had anxiety.  I got a call on the second day of school from someone in the Special Education department declaring that we needed to meet and discuss a 504 plan until an IEP evaluation could be started.  That’s a rare thing.  Schools don’t usually do that.

Eadaoin, however, was in the middle of neuropsychological testing at one of our local pediatric specialty hospitals.  I did not want anyone doing an IEP evaluation without the results of her neuropsychological evaluation.  Why did this matter?

  1. A school cannot repeat testing that has already been done within the same year, and tests like the WISC-IV, BASC-II, and the Woodcock-Johnson are often done on both neuropsychs and IEP evaluations.  I would rather have a neuropsychologist from a pediatric hospital administer and interpret these tests rather than a school psychologist.
  2. A neuropsychological report is almost always more in-depth than school testing providing more information for a better sense of your child’s learning, processing, executive function, and recall as well as IQ dynamics.
  3. Neuropsychological testing provides insight into how mental illness impacts learning, and this is key.  Illnesses like bipolar disorder have a direct impact on executive function, and this is vital to emphasize for educators.  I have yet to meet one educator who knows this.  They are only now beginning to recognize that ADHD impacts executive function, but, sadly, even the school psychologists are ignorant.
  4. An OHI-IEP is an appropriate IEP for a child with a mood disorder, but most educators do not know this.  IDEA 2004 even states that mood disorders fall under the requirements for Other Health Impairments.  Why? Once again, this is the case because the symptoms of mood disorders impact learning, retention, and often one’s ability to even sit in a classroom.  Why does this matter?
  5. SPED staff will often want to subject students to a Functional Behavioral Analysis which is required for an EBD-IEP.  An FBA is appropriate when assessing anxiety, but an FBA is not appropriate when assessing a mood or psychotic disorder because mania, clinical depression, and psychosis serve no function.  A child cannot “CBT” away the mania and replace it with a better behavior.  A child cannot will away psychosis and bring a better behavior to a classroom.  Putting a child through an FBA is, therefore, useless and often painful.

Eadaoin’s neuropsychologist recommended a 504 plan for her in writing on her final report.  As we were discussing it in person, she said that an OHI-IEP would be appropriate, too–whichever met her needs to the most appropriate level.  She failed to put that in her report.  She failed to put that statement in writing.

I sent a copy of this report to Eadaoin’s school, and I received a call from the new special education person yesterday.  She’s new.  She probably has a lot to do.  She is probably overworked, underpaid, and tired like most educators.  I do understand that.  I don’t and will never understand, however, the stonewalling and almost feigned lack of intelligence that I encounter in so many special education departments.  The system might be broken, but people are not:

“No one told me that there was a full evaluation already done on Eadaoin,” said the new SPED woman.

“I emailed the person you replaced.  He knew.”

“Oh.  Well, there’s no need to do a full evaluation then.  The report says that she should have a 504 plan.”

“It should be noted that her doctor also told me in our meeting that a 504 plan or an OHI…whatever accommodated her the best.”

“But, she isn’t learning disabled.  She has a high IQ.”

“What does a learning disability have to do with an Other Health Impairment IEP?”

“But she isn’t learning disabled. The report shows that.”

“Once again, what does one have to do with the other?”

“The report says that she needs a 504 plan.”

“Yes, I read the report, and I was with the doctor for an hour as she interpreted the report for me.  Once again, she also made other recommendations.”

“The report says that she needs a 504 plan.”

“….”

“According to IDEA, a person with a mood disorder qualifies for an OHI-IEP.  Her reports shows that she has a mood disorder.  Ergo, would an IEP serve her better? That is my question.”

“She isn’t learning disabled.”

“Gifted children have IEPs.  Clearly, they are not learning disabled.”

“The report says that she needs a 504 plan.”

I think you get the point.  If the illustrious 504 plan is what Eadaoin needs, then I’m all for it.  504 plans travel to college which can be really good.  IEPs do not.  If she were to actually need an IEP, however, then my chances of getting one for her now are very low because Dr. Berg did not write her verbal recommendations in that damned report.

Assume the worst.  Assume that you will have to fight for every accommodation that your child needs.  This is why Wright’s Law exists.  I have had two experiences–a nightmare and a daydream.  In the end, I was able to get each child what she needed because of the documentation.

Always, always, always get it in writing.  Always.

 Resource:

The Functional Outcome of Bipolar Disorder: The Big Picture

If schools were more aware of the ideas presented in this article on the same level as they are concerning ADHD or even ASDs, then how might those students with mood disorders do as they move towards matriculation? It would be a different educational world to be sure.

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