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Q: I have an eight-year-old who has an IEP coming up. When she was five they sent her to a special day class. During the year they said she was way ahead of the rest of the class, and really belonged in a regular first grade with Resource Room help. Things have been going pretty well for a while. But now she's getting frustrated with third-grade work. It's too hard. She needs lots of help. I'm wondering how we know when to push the school to put her in a special class again. She's a very stubborn, emotional child. She has ADD/ADHD tendencies, but we don't want to medicate. We want her teacher to nicely remind her to be on task. I just want my daughter to be happy and not frustrated all the time.
A: You've asked some really important questions. If your child is coming up for a new IEP, this means that her original testing will be done again to see what kind of progress she has made over the last three years. When you have that information, you (and the team doing the evaluation) will be able to make a more informed decision about the kind of services your daughter needs. The team doing the evaluation must talk to you about all the possible placements they are considering. One of the major advantages of a small, self-contained special class, of course, is that instruction can be more focused on children's particular needs for an extended period of time. But there may be other ways to meet your daughter's needs. For example, Resource Room time may be increased so she can get more attention outside the classroom. A special education teacher can also come into the regular classroom and give her support right there.
Third-grade work can be very challenging. There is often a real shift away from learning how to read and towards reading more independently to learn new information. If your child is struggling and frustrated, it certainly seems like she needs more support. Ask if there's a parent advocate available to be with you at the IEP conference to help you make the best decision possible. You can also call the toll-free number for the International Dyslexia Association (1-800-ABCD123) or Learning Disabilities Association (1-888-300-6710) to see if there is a local branch where you can receive more guidance and support. Good luck!
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.