Advice about IEP & 504 Plans

IEP = An Individualized Education Plan documents a child's disability and includes a plan of action as to how the school will provide education as required by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Right.) IDEA covers kids with very specific conditions including mental impairment, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, and speech and language difficulties. Typically the school provides Special Education services such as aides and tutoring.

504 Plan = Per SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, this is for kids who don't qualify for an IEP but who have a physical or mental impairment and require some accommodations, to satisy Section 504's right to equal access to education. Typically, it is a plan that lists accommodations such as extended test-taking time, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

DREDF = the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (website: ) DREDF is an information center funded by the US Department of Education, serving children from birth to age 22 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning. DREDF provides parent training and Education Advocates to help with special education issues.

Related Pages

Parent Q&A

Seeking IEP consultant for high school level IEP Nov 13, 2019 (0 responses below)
Preschool IEP advice Oct 11, 2019 (6 responses below)
IEP Advocate for Albany student Oct 7, 2019 (5 responses below)
PBIS in IEP May 12, 2019 (2 responses below)
IEP Recommendation Jan 7, 2019 (2 responses below)
Starting middle school with an IEP and many struggles Mar 30, 2018 (4 responses below)
BUSD Central Zone schools for IEP + gifted (2e) kids? Jan 27, 2018 (3 responses below)
Success with school district paying for private math class Aug 22, 2017 (2 responses below)
Special Ed/IEP advocate? Dec 19, 2016 (6 responses below)
  • Searching for recommendations for an IEP consultant for high school level IEP that can help determine what services and supports are available for student. Student has had IEP since 3rd grade. Student was very successful in middle school with IEP. Consultant able to clarify what high school teachers and administrators can legally require of student. Familiarity with Contra Costa County high school districts will be very helpful. Thank You!

  • Preschool IEP advice

    (6 replies)

    I have a 4yr Old with speech and language delay and recently signed an IEP for the first time. We are getting 30min sessions, twice a week. I am new to the world of SpEd and was taken aback when I started looking for more resources/info and saw how many people cautioning parents before signing an IEP; and I just blindly and trustingly signed ours. Now I’m wondering what I missed and what I shouldn’t have agreed to. I have checked out the DREDF website, but there is so much information, I’m a little overwhelmed. I would appreciate some advice from other parents for now and for the future as well. If I don’t think my current IEP is working, can I have it reassessed? Oh and if anyone knows of a parent group geared toward kids w speech delays, I would appreciate the referral, as well.

    RE: Preschool IEP advice ()

    Hello! I would caution you from doing too much internet research on this as I find many people go the extreme in their suspicions about the IEP documents and feeling like the school district is somehow trying to pull one over on you. The vast majority of the time, the service providers are great and also have the same goal as you....supporting your child. There is so much mistrust of the school district services and I feel it is detrimental to the relationships the service providers have with families. Treat it the same as you would a medical provider. Go in with an open mind, stay involved and if things feel like they are not working out, work with them to make it better. Unless you feel the goals and services were not appropriate, signing the document is not a problem. The IEP is a "living document" and can be adjusted as needed. Your child should receive progress reports on their goals and if they are not making progress, an IEP can be called to make adjustments.  You should have received a document called "procedural safeguards" which outlines the process and your rights as a parent. I definitely recommend reading it so you know more about the process and what to do if you disagree. If you have any concerns, you can request an IEP any time and they need to hold it within 30 days. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions. 

    RE: Preschool IEP advice ()

    I am a parent of a 15 year old who has had an IEP since age 7. I would have done it sooner had I known my options, so you are already ahead. The great thing about an IEP is that parents are allowed to call an IEP meeting at any time. Parents are an integral vital part of the IEP team A lot of what is helpful is information gathering and assessments of your child. You can see how it goes and if what is in the IEP proves to be helpful, then you can focus on making sure the written goals are constructive and measurable. Please feel free to contact me, I am all for helping out fellow parents so they don't have to reinvent the wheel. I have a lot of experience and would welcome the chance to share it.

    RE: Preschool IEP advice ()

    Call DREDF, they will do free phone consultations and it is much easier than trying to sift through the information on the website. It was several years ago when I consulted them but they were incredibly helpful in cutting right through to the core issues and giving me very specific advice, down to the words to use when talking to the school district.

  • IEP Advocate for Albany student

    (5 replies)

    I am seeking advice and/or recommendation for an advocate or lawyer to help me communicate with my daughter's school regarding her IEP.  

    Her AUSD school (Cornell) has been without a resource teacher this academic year and as a result the district has not provided her with 1200 minutes of resource class education (and counting).  I would like to hire a tutor for her so that she can get the educational support that the district has failed to give her and I need help getting the district to pay for this.  The district is "working on a plan" to make up missed minutes, but the only vague information they have provided me so far is that they might be able to make up the missed minutes during winter break.  

    I have contacted DREDF and await their reply.  I would greatly appreciate any experiences, leads, or information that parents who have been in this situation or gone through this process would be comfortable sharing with me.   Thanks very much in advance.  

    Our family lives in Oakland.  Our situation is slightly different but parallel.   I'm working with Tollner Law in San Jose.  Special education is their focus.  It's been a good experience.  Get in touch and I can give you more details.  Good luck.


    Our  daughter had an IEP and we had so many challenges with our local school district. I found many helpful resources, including free access to care managers at Children’s Health Center(CHC). There website is and their care managers can be reached at 650-688-3625 or caremanagers [at] They are noted to be the top rated education and mental health services for children, teens and young adults, with reputable resources steeped in solid research and science. I hope you find this resources as helpful as I did.

    Good Luck to you


    Jennifer Callahan 415-238-2338 .

    This is her specialty!

  • PBIS in IEP

    (2 replies)

    Dear parents, Are there any potential concerns associated with including positive behavior or PBIS goal in the IEP? My daughter is in general education class (2nd grade) with some push in services. The RSP teacher asked us to sign an amended IEP that included the following accommodation, "All consequences must be part of a positive reinforcement system or district positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) system" The RSP teacher mentioned that they are adding this to all IEPs in the school. I did not sign this yet as not much information was provided other than she telling that it will be helpful to have that accommodation in her IEP. Her classroom teacher mentioned during the last IEP that my kid was getting distracted a lot and not focusing in the classroom. But she is not disruptive or causing any harm to others. Now with this request, I am trying to understand the motivations of the teacher and/or school. Anyone with such experiences or experience with PBIS could please provide guidance? Also, is it okay to sign IEP without understanding what their intention is? Any suggestions or help is appreciated. Thanks, Concerned parent.

    RE: PBIS in IEP ()

    Absolutely ask the school to explain it further, but generally, this is common for schools that are adopting positive behavior systems, and something you want them to be doing. What they mean is that your child should not be given negative consequences for undesired behavior, but instead any consequences should be part of a behavior plan that rewards the behavior you do want to see (vs. punishing the behavior you don't want to see). My guess is that your school is just beginning to use this system, and also that students with IEPs are more likely to be punished in negative ways, so they are codifying that the consequences need to be tied to the new positive behavior system. But they should be able to explain what this means at your particular school (and for your particular child), and you should definitely feel comfortable with everything in the IEP before signing it.

    RE: PBIS in IEP ()

    NEVER sign an IEP if you don't understand it fully! 

    That being said, this sounds to me like they are trying to encourage positive reinforcement rather than teachers snapping at the kids only for behavior that's deemed negative or disruptive. I can say from personal experience that this is needed. This is about how the teachers handle disruptions, not whether your specific kid is disruptive. 

  • IEP Recommendation

    (2 replies)

    Happy New Year. I'm seeking a likable but firm advocate for my daughter's upcoming IEP for OUSD. I appreciate any leads and advice in the area.


    RE: IEP Recommendation ()

    Hi There,

    I don’t have any recs for an advocate, unfortunately, but I highly recommend attending a DREDF workshop to understand all your parental rights. could also contact them to see if they have any advocate information.

    Best of luck!

    RE: IEP Recommendation ()

    Jennifer Callahan in Oakland.  She's a SPED parent herself!

  • Hello Parents of wonderful and gifted kids, I am a single mom who is currently looking at how to channel the public school system. My 11 year old son will be transferring to Marchus in Concord. He has an IEP. He has many struggles, ADHD, ODD, to name a few. What has your experience been if you have gone through a similar situation as mine?

    If you know of any parents groups/ advocates who are there to help vs. advocates who charge please share your experience or their contact info.

    I have come across so many advocates in the special ed section who charge so much money. I understand people have to make a living but this is a very vulnerable position to be in let alone being a single mom and having limited resources. 

    Id appreciate any advice or feedback you have. 



    Free advice can be found through DREDF - you can leave a voicemail on their IEP help line and usually get a call back in 48 hours. I’m in a Facebook group that’s very helpful - look up TM Special Needs IEP Support and you’ll find it. Hang in there!

    I would get in touch with DREDF and if you need someone to talk to about how to advocate I can at least share what I know. I'm a mom of a teen with adhd and ASD who had behavior difficulties.

    Check out 

    I am not sure what their geographical scope is, but this is exactly the kind of service they provide. 

    also check out and (special education section). 

    Good luck to you and our son

  • Hello fellow parents out there,

    We have two kids (K and 3rd) currently in a small private school, where we are not happy.  The school claims to support differentiated learning, yet lacks basic structure or learning standards, and a sense of community.  So we're looking to move to a BUSD school in the Central Zone (Malcolm X, Washington, Cragmont, Oxford, BAM).

    We are super stressed about the whole transition although excited to re-allocate the tuition money toward more family time together.

    Our older child has a host of learning differences (challenges and strengths) and we will need (I'm sure) to establish an IEP for him.  Can anyone shed any light on which (if any) of the schools in our zone might be especially supportive for our family?  Any advice on navigating the lottery/school assignment if we don't get one of our top choices?  What do you IEP families wish you knew before you started the process?  Is there any learning/social-emotional support for gifted kids anywhere at the elementary level in BUSD?

    SO many questions.  Thank you so much for any words of wisdom!!

    My experience with the lottery is that we have not been able to move to a different school and we have been trying all year (we are currently at Malcom X). I think this is highly dependent on what school you are trying to get into and if there happens to be a spot or not. I think any special social-emotional support for kids (gifted or not) is going to be teacher specific. Our highly sensitive daughter is in a classroom that is not a good fit for her and while the school has done some work with us trying to help her they were not willing to try a different classroom. The only option they gave us was to change schools completely. All students in BUSD use the Toolbox program for social emotional development (

    I'm not in that zone and can't speak to the schools, but wanted to speak to the IEP process - one thing BUSD throws in as a requirement is that the child have a vision and hearing screening that was done within the past year. Kaiser regularly does these at check-ups, but you need to make sure you've got paperwork that says they had the screening. The Special Ed Department has a very long list of documents they want before they start looking it over, I think it's on the website. If you can, start the process NOW before everything closes up for the summer. We moved here over the summer and didn't find out the school until August 15th, didn't have an IEP, and had to rush to get a 504 and some basic accomodations in place prior to the start of school by contacting the principal. I believe you can actually get the whole thing started now because of a provision of the IDEA law called "Child Find" - DREDF is a good resource if you have technical questions. Good luck!

    Hi, sorry to hear your school isn’t very supportive of your children. I would suggest looking up Family Resource Navigators and give them a call! They are a good resource on how you can start the process on getting evaluated. They will most likely send a referal to East Bay Regional Center to start the assessmens/evaluations. Based on the results if your kids need services, they’ll direct you to the public school and then they’ll do their own assessments. The school will then call for an IEP meeting and set goals for your kids. As far as schools, it depends which school you’re closest to and if there’s an opening. I highly suggest calling a DREDF advocate to help with the IEP. They can also come to your IEP meeting. Hope that helps! 

  • Hi Parents- 

    My husband and I are feeling at a loss about our son's educational progress and would love to hear from other parents that might have been through the same thing. 

    Our son is a first grader at a public school in Los Altos, he is happy, friendly, well behaved and generally loves school. We have always known he may have some ADHD or other LDs since they run in both sides of our family. We began noticing some attention and processing issues about mid-way through kinder last year and made a formal request to the district to have him assessed. After a group SST meeting the team had encouraged us to wait until he was 6 to just make sure that this isn't a maturity issue. Although my gut told me it wasn't a maturity issue we did agree to wait until he turned 6 to reconvene. 

    Long story short, they were not very helpful and actually pushed off his testing to the beginning of first grade. Once they formally assessed him they did note that he presented with ADHD-Combined (we have a formal diagnosis as well) but since he falls in the "low/average range" for state scores (even though he is reading at an emerging kinder level for our district) they determined he did not meet the criteria for an IEP. We left the initial meeting feeling defeated, unheard and concerned that our son will continue to just flounder. We ended up hiring an educational advocate who helped us reconvene our SST team and share our disappointment that they didn't find he qualified. They offered us a 504 plan and we have been trying our best to get the most out of it but at our teacher conference this week his classroom teacher said that he isn't advancing as quickly as he could because he needs more support (not just modifications that come with a 504). The teacher, as well as our pediatrician have concerns about his auditory processing speed and also his lack of fine motor skills (poor pencil grasp, incomplete letter formation, etc). I really feel like because our son doesn't have behavior issues (he is very social, has friends and can keep himself from wiggling too much with the help of his hokkei stool and fidget toys) his needs aren't being addressed very quickly. 

    It is our understanding that as parents we have the right to request an Independent Educational Evaluation performed by people outside the school psych and resource specialist to better understand his issues and ultimately help him get more support so he can thrive and not struggle so much but I am not sure how to request this. We'd like to do at least some of it on our own to save some money on educational consultants but we honestly aren't even sure where to start. 

    Any advice, suggestions or experience in this are would be greatly appreciated. 


    Concerned and overwhelmed mama

    Hi, our experience is with a different school district, as we’re here in Berkeley, but just wanted to say it’s quite often a “fight” with the school district to get services. Sometimes a long and expensive fight. Since he qualifies for a 504 but not an IEP, I’m pretty sure your family (as opposed to the school district) foots the bill for any outside evaluation(s). Have you searched the BPN archives?  There are lots of discussions of these issues. Two organizations that could help, although both in the East Bay, are DREDF in Berkeley and Family Resource Network in Oakland. Best of luck..  

    Hi Mama! I have strong feelings about the fact that every time a child with special needs enters the public school system, the parents have to reinvent the wheel. I was you 8 years ago. My son is now 13 and I am pretty good at getting him what he needs after years of practice and help by DREDF and DRC and just working hard to learn the laws, etc. Now I am ready to help you because I think it stinks that there is not enough support for children and families of kids with special needs entering public school. The parents who know how need to help the parents who are new. First, here is an excellent and informative article from Wright's Law (which should be your new best friend.)   And second, if you need any more help or someone to bounce things off of, email me and I can give you my #. I would be happy to listen and help where I can.


    Hi Concerned and Overwhelmed -

    I'm so sorry to hear about your experience. It can be confusing, overwhelming, and demoralizing to deal with schools and districts when your child needs to be assessed, or needs/has an IEP. I do lots of advocacy work, and am happy to talk to you about how to ask for an IEE, and how to navigate all of this.

    In the meantime, let the SST team know you would like an IEE done at the school's expense. An email will suffice. 

    The district then has to either agree to pay for an IEE with a district-approved assessor, or give you what's called Prior Written Notice. 

    If they refuse to pay for an IEE, you can proceed to Due Process with an attorney, but hopefully it won't come to that.

    You can also ask the district to accept the formal diagnosis you have from before, although it sounds like there might be some other deficits you want identified.

    Hope this helps somewhat. Please feel free to call me.


    Co-Director, Classroom Matters


  • We're grateful to those of you who recommended the Ann Martin Center for an educational assessment for out 10th grade daughter who struggles with reading. We had a good experience there and received a diagnosis consistent with our daughter's self-reporting. Now we have to start the process of requesting a 504 Plan at the late stage of 10th grade. ANy advice appreciated. Also, we're seeking an Educational Therapist in the Albany area who can work with our daughter to improve her reading skills. We have the name of Kristen Hawkinson as a starter. Thanks!

    We absolutely love 

    Lise Narath M.S.Ed
    Reading Connection

    our son loves her too. She is in Albany. Good luck!

    Does your child go to Berkeley High? If so 2 things:

    1. BOLD is a parent led support group for parents for kids with LD. Started by some parents 5 years ago, it meets once a month (tonight actually) from 6:30-8:30 on usually the 2nd Monday of the month. There you will get lots of support and suggestions and help with this process. Open and free to all parents.

    2. If your child goes to BHS we may have some suggestions of how to get a 504 specific to BHS (It appears).

    You can email bhsboldcontact [at] & 1 of us will respond.

    good luck!

    I recommend requesting an IEP. 504 can be unilaterally changed by the school. There is a great Nolo self help book called something like 'The self help book on IEP's' Explains every step. I believe the school district needs to test the child also, besides the outside testing you received. Push and put pressure on the school district! I had to file a complaint withe the department of Education in Sacramento before all of a sudden we received everything my son had been needing so direly.

  • Hello: I am an AUSD parent.  My child has an IEP for a significant math impairment.  She would not be able to keep up in even the most basic math class offered in her grade.  She has been talking math privately.    It's very expensive and it occurred to me (yes, silly that it took so long) that we should petition the school district to pay for it.  Has anyone been successful with this, and willing to talk to me about how they went about it?  Thank you in advance. 

    I also have a child at AUSD who is on an IEP and is taking math privately.  Your post did not indicate what grade your daughter is in, which I actually think is important in terms of strategy.  Firstly, I would suggest you look at your child's most recent testing for math aptitude and see what your daughter's scores indicate.  In our case, even though our kid scored in an average range, they placed him in Resource Math class once he got to Middle School.  By the time we got to AHS, they were again recommending Resource Math, even though by this time, we had figured out he was capable of more than that.  They said we could place him in a general education classroom for math, but he would only have Support Lab class to get extra help with the material.  We knew he would fail in that setting.  Here's the rub.  We consulted with an attorney who told us that if we wanted to have the district pay for private math, we'd have to prove that the district had not offered us FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education, I think).  But to do this, we'd have to put him back in the general education class, and let him fail first.  I wish we had forced this issue in Middle School, when grades don't really count.  We chose to just enroll him at Tilden Prep for math, where he has now successfully completed Algebra I and Geometry, working one-on-one with an instructor. 

    Bottom line is you could put your daughter into a Resource Math class at AUSD for free, but if you think she could learn significantly more with intensive instruction and her testing supports that, push for inclusion in a general education math class before high school.  You have to be willing to let her experience the humiliation of that failure, though.  It's also worth mentioning that my kid found Resource Math to be humiliating because it was so basic. 

    Other posters are going to tell you to call DREDF.  By all means do that, but I think the attorney we spoke with was a bit more of a realist than the folks I talked to at DREDF.  Contact me through my username below, if you like.  I would be happy to talk to you further.  Good luck to you.  This stuff is hard!!

    I assume AUSD, is Albany USD.  It is possible to get the district to pay for outside classes.  However, you would probably need to hire an attorney to do that and have outside evaluations done to show that it is necessary.  Whether it is worth it or not depends on how old your child is now.  If she is young, it will help you get services for many years.  If she is in high school, it might not be worth the up front costs for an attorney and private evaluations, depending on what you are spending now.  You could also just ask for an IEP meeting, and request that the district provide services for math education.  If you disagree with what they offer, then document that by writing an addendum to the IEP.  DREDF in Berkeley can help you with advice and doesn't charge for their services.  (Disability Rights organization).  Unfortunately the services provided by the district are generally inadequate.  So you can go with inadequate services,  pay for an attorney, (sometimes those costs can be recouped, but no guarantee) or pay out of pocket for the services that will benefit your child.  Not great choices.  You can contact me if you like.  

  • Special Ed/IEP advocate?

    (6 replies)

    We are in the process of seeking an IEP from the WCCUSD and would like to find a professional advocate with experience working with this school district. We are also on a tight budget and have found at least one that is prohibitively expensive. Any recommendations of a good advocate, preferably on the west side of the tunnel, would be appreciated. Thank you!

    RE: Special Ed/IEP advocate? ()

    Try Disability Rights Education and Rights Fund (

    RE: Special Ed/IEP advocate? ()

    Betsy Brazy - 

    brazylaw [at]

    (510) 224-5146

    She has help me and 4 other people I know in getting the right accommodations and placement for our kids

    in the WCCUSD.  She knows her stuff and is great to work with.

    RE: Special Ed/IEP advocate? ()

    If you have a neuropsych eval they will often attend iep meetings with you. The advocate Judy True was pretty good. She worked in a way that did not alienate anyone.

    Another route is the cde, if you are having trouble you can reach out to them. (All those calls are recorded and reported to the school.)

    Selpas are trained by the schools legal so you may spin your wheels.

    Dredft in Berkeley may be of help.

    What seems to work for some is talking to the principle, the expense of a due process is steep and can be avoided. S/he can make school specialist available to help after school.

    Scotish rites language lab at lake merrit has services without the rigamerol.

    Its crazy making.

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Difficulty getting assessment for kid with an IEP

Jan 2014


Hello parents, I'm looking for information/ advice from parents who have been able to secure an educational assessment from the Diagnostic Center in Fremont. My son has an IEP and continues to be academically behind (3 years). I believe the assessment will be helpful to all involved- especially the school district -to find the best way my child learns and to get him what he needs to succeed.

I've asked the school district for this assessment but they have denied my request. I will be having another IEP meeting and will bring this up again. I know some districts rather do their own assessments, but my experience with these is that they are not very thorough and are biased. I know I could pay a private practitioner to do one, but I strongly feel that the school district should provide this since they have not been successful in figuring out the best way to reach/teach him.

I'd like to hear from parents who have succeeded in gaining an assessment from the Center via the school district. What did you have to do to get the assessment approved? What happened when completed and did the school district follow the recommendation? I'd also like to hear from parents who have gone the private route and paid for an assessment. How did you present the results to your school district and what was the result? Did the district provide the services recommended by the private assessment?

Thanks Frustrated with school district

I'm sorry to hear you're having trouble with the school district. I'm surprised that they are denying it since it is no cost to them. We were able to secure an assessment through the Diagnostic Center in Fremont (whom I thought was top-notch and incredibly thorough). Although I may not have much sage advice for you, but here's my experience: We did this immediately following the school district's assessment before we had an IEP in place (I don't know if that made a difference or not). I followed up on the school district assessment with a letter that highlighted some specific portions of the assessment that I questioned (e.g., a little bit of sloppy - or maybe just not well trained?-things were done) that I felt put a few of the assessment's conclusions into question. It helped to do some research here to back up what I was saying, like using research from sources familiar with the disability. The assessment didn't jibe with the issues that we had been describing that were of concern and so we made a strong case for why the district's assessment was not adequate. We didn't want to be adversarial and tried to present it as needing some of the questions left by the assessment further resolved and requested CDE (Diagnostic Center) as the third party - since that is a right! The school did accept the Center's diagnosis and some of the recommendations although it was my understanding that they were not obligated to. Good luck! anon


504 and fair expectations for teacher communication

Feb 2011


I'm hoping other parents will help me form reasonable expectations for teacher communications in the context of a 504 plan for a child with learning problems in a public school.

I'm in the process of seeking a 504 plan for my middle- schooler, who has been diagnosed with ADD. The ADD manifests as extreme difficulty with organizing time, paper, tasks and information.

In a meeting with the classroom teachers, I expressed that what would be most helpful would be for me to have current information about upcoming tests and assignments, and to be told promptly when my child fails to turn in work or is unprepared. All the teachers acknowledge that my child's sole problem seems to be organization, and I've done my best to explain that despite trying hard, my child often cannot even tell me what the homework is for the next day, and constantly loses papers and worksheets despite real effort, making it very hard for me to help.

The school's position is that I am unreasonable in asking whether all teachers could post assignments, worksheets, and a calendar on-line, and that it is highly unreasonable to ask that individual teachers let me know quickly when work is not turned in. Meanwhile, this is what would help, and is the only thing I am asking for. I myself have taught, and acknowledge that this is a lot of work (but I did it!). I have a demanding job with long hours, and other children and family members to attend to, so really need the school's cooperation to effectively support my child's sincere effort to stay on top of things.

Is up-to-date, on-line, access to a current list of homework assignments and upcoming tests, and prompt notice (within two days, say) when a child fails to hand in work too much to ask for in a 504 plan? Sincere thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives. Perplexed parent

I'm sorry that I don't have clear advice, but I've been banging my head against a wall dealing with a private school with this issue. Most of the teachers seem utterly incapable of timely posting assignments and it is like pulling teeth to get info/status from them. My daughter has the exact same issues (she is a few years older).

That being said, my understanding is that you have greater rights in public schools for accommodations. And there are plenty of schools where teachers are able to post assignments and provide timely updates to parents about missing assignments, etc. There are computer programs that I've seen implemented for both public and private schools, although they may not be used until middle school. (At my daughter's prior school, the teachers managed to post accurate assignment AND communicate with me if about missing homework. It CAN be done.)

If your child is 9, I assume she has one primary teacher. If she has an assignment book, have the teacher review it every day, initial the assignments for the next day, and note any missing homework. This is not an outrageous request. (If your daughter does not have an assignment book, she needs one.)

I'm looking forward to hearing other posters' input. In the meantime, best of luck. I feel your pain! Frustrated mom

Yes it is unreasonable because most of the teachers probably don't organize the work that way. You need to talk to them/email them as individuals (maybe choosing the most problematic subjects) and find out how they organize the work, and how you can get feedback on how your son is doing. For example, I hand out a chapter homework sheet, and parents can look at the sheet each day, and check that their child has done the homework. I also make arrangements for types of notebooks for children with organizational troubles to help them organize their work, and me to find that work. My main suggestion is that you (or someone else -- your partner, a tutor) sit down with your child every day, supervise the homework, and help him put it in the notebook/folder for the next day. There are tutors that specialize in teaching students how to organize their work.

Remember about 6 hours a day is spent in direct contact with students, and meetings (like 504s). Then another couple of hours are spent preparing materials for the next day. The paperwork part of teaching comes after all the rest of the work, so by asking teachers to add more paperwork to their days you are going to make it more difficult for them to do what is needed to help your child and the other children learn. anon

I think you are demanding WAY WAY too much of your child's teachers. I would never even consider asking so much of a teacher. Never. Your child is one of over a hundred kids (if this is a typical middle-school) that each of these teachers is responsible for educating. Your unreasonable request will impact the amount of attention the teacher can equitably give to all the students that deserve his/her time. Please - no one child is so ''special'' as to deserve so much particular attention. You clearly have resources and time to spare. I believe it is incumbent upon YOU to make sure that your child is learning. I totally support your school administration and teachers in refusing your request. Perhaps your family is better suited for a private school. my two cents

Yes. Its alot. You are not taking into account how many students these teachers have, and as PROFESSIONALS all the other things they have to do, it is ALOT to ask. BUT I do think sending you a quick email about if work was turned in or not is appropriate.that's something that could maybe happen every day. been teaching for 11 years

What may be new information for you is that the job of teaching has become much more demanding over the last five years. I rather suspect that what you want from teacher's may be more than they can reasonably do. So I was wondering how you could accomplish your goal without daily teacher feedback. Am wondering if you could create a structure for your son using pictures of each step he is to follow to get the homework home. That might take feedback from the individual teacher of how and when their homework is assigned. Perhaps checking to see that each teacher has a routine or is willing to establish one would work? I rather suspect the routines are in place. This might shift the focus from more work for teachers, who are probably overwhelmed already, to helping your child learn to function better in the world.

In addition, have seen changes to a child's diet and organic supplements make a huge difference in a child's attention span. I would always know the day the routine hadn't been followed from the child's behavior. Also, know from first hand experience, that there are patches and meds available to help with the problem that may be very beneficial without side effects. anon

As a parent of a child with a learning disability I have been in your shoes, and this is what I learned, the hard way... it doesn't matter how reasonable your demands are or how well they will help your child, when teachers don't agree to making an accommodation they aren't going to make it. Even if they are legally required to accommodate they will not really do it and it is very hard to prove that they haven't. Meanwhile your child is the one who suffers. Eventually I realized that it was more important for my child's self esteem to be in a setting that was supportive and where his needs would be met than it was to fight for his right to stay in a traditional setting with teachers who were narrow minded and judgemental. Maybe you will get further with your son's school than I did with mine... I hope you do. I found it better for my family to bite the bullet and pay for a private school that specialized in learning disabilities so that I wouldn't have to fight for my son to receive the mediocre/half-hearted accommodations that were the best I could hope for from a resistant school. in a better place now

Hi! I am a middle school teacher at a school east of the tunnel. I'll share with you our school/district policies regarding communication.

At our school we currently use an online forum (schoolnotes) to post homework and assignments. I post the assignments there daily. Others have a calendar for the month. We have an online grading program in our district and we are expected to update our gradebook at least every two weeks. Most at our school update weekly. Two days for an assignment seems like very quick turnaround (especially for more in-depth assignments that require greater time to analyze and grade, such as essays or lab reports). It seems reasonable to ask if your child turned in a lab report (via a quick email on your part, ''Just checking that Johnny turned in his Plant lab!'') but that wouldn't be practical for a daily math homework assignment. Without knowing more about the school set-up and teachers/subject matter that is a particular problem , I can't comment more on this. I can tell you, though, that if you have a specific question about the status of an assignment, your best bet is to send a quick, friendly email.

We don't have any policy on posting worksheets online. Many new textbook adoptions have an online component and students can log in and access the student worksheets there. I, personally, post directions to projects online, but not teacher created worksheets for each day. That could be a problem for many teachers due to scanning and uploading ablities.

I hope that your son is able to work with a resource teacher or academic counselor at school to help find an organizational system that works for him. One strategy that works well with (most) of our 6th graders is to have ONE special folder for all homework/notes home (not by subject matter). Completed work comes back in the same folder. (Theoretically this folder does not accumulate papers). Best of luck! Mrs. Teacher

You have my empathy. I'm a middle school teacher who has dealt both personally and professionally with ADHD and I know how frustrating it can be. Kudos to you for getting the 504 and for trying to work with the school.

My own perspective is that while it may technically sound reasonable to ask teachers for up-to-the minute, daily updates about homework or work completion, it is extremely difficult for most teachers to provide this. Given that many middle (and high school) teachers have up to 100 students (and therefore papers) per day, the grading and data entry hours alone are enormous. You are thinking of one child and his papers, but the teacher is seeing 30+ students at a time, choreographing activities, presenting information, dealing with passing periods and collecting papers, often all at the same time.

As for future tests and plans, this, too, is difficult. I've been teaching for over 10 years, and I plan week to week, and sometimes I must review/reteach or alter lesson plans from day to day. Some activities end up taking longer than others, and some material must be retaught. This is why it is very difficult to provide long-term input to parents.

What *can* you ask for? Ask for your child to carry an organizer or daily planner and to use it for daily communication with the teacher. Your child needs to ask the teacher for his/her signature. Have your child stop by after school for a two-minute check in, to review the homework or to show him/her your child's binder. Have your child pair up with a friend to do homework with after school.

Also, is there an academic support class available? Some schools offer study skills or other classes for students to do homework or to work on organizational skills, but I'm not sure this would apply to your child. Can your child be placed in a collaborative class where there are assistants available to help him with organization?

Find someone - perhaps another parent or a sympathetic staff member - who can offer some out-of-the-box alternatives. It's not easy, but it can be done. Good luck and best wishes to you. Johanna


Explaining to first grader why he has an IEP

May 2010


My first grade son has an IEP related to auditory processing disorder. He's very bright and in terms of class participation apparently is a teacher's dream child except for the fact that reading, spelling and anything involving rote memorization are extremely difficult for him.

Just this month, he's beginning to talk about how easily other kids read, ask why his spelling test is differently than everyone else's, and call himself stupid when he can't read at home. I think it's time to talk with him about how his brain works differently and the methods and tools his teachers, dad and I are building to allow him to be successful in doing whatever he wishes to do. But I'm not sure what to say or how much detail to give him. Spoken words are problematic, too. He learns so well through visual input like DVDs or books with pictures.

Have you had an IEP talk with your kid? Do you know of resources to make it visual? What do you do if your kid feels stupid--especially when it's obvious that he struggles to learn what other kids (who are his friends) absorb without effort? (From what I see and what the teachers say, he's not being teased or put down by kids in his class.)

I particularly would appreciate advice from someone who's been through this. Time to talk

My daughter also started to notice that she was the only one not learning to read in first grade, that others were ahead of her academically, and that things came slower to her than her peers. Second grade was worse. She was in a 1/2 split, even though I requested that the school NOT do this, and she quickly noticed that the first graders were learning to read better than she was. She used to cry and say that she could never become a mom, because she could not read.

My daughter is now in the 6th grade, and is aware that her brain works differently, and even though she is incredibly bright and gifted, she takes more time to process than others do. She still sometimes asks why she is different, but we talk about it a lot, and I point out her strengths often (she is an excellent writer, although still spells most words phonetically), is an amazing artist, and is beyond kind and gentle. I tend to shrug off her learning differences, and simply say, ''Your brain works differently. It is neither good nor bad, just different.''

Check out the following book: All Kinds Of Minds, by Mel Levine. It is written FOR kids, about learning differences. A must have for any child with an IEP. Life Long Learner

My son also has auditory processing disorder, aggravated by ADD. I think you are right to have a conversation with him about this; soon after my son's evaluation, we explained to him that he learned differently from other kids, and also that he sometimes has difficulty understanding what someone says the first time (or second or third...) because of a kind of little glitch in his system, like a filter that won't let some things through easily. Trying to make it concrete was helpful -- but what was really helpful in my son's case was giving him the label, something he could point to and use to explain to people. Not long after our conversation, we were traveling and needed to check into a hotel. My son went up to the desk clerk (he has utterly no social inhibitions) and wanted to know if our room had a jacuzzi (Californian kid). She responded, but he didn't get it. ''Can you say that again slowly? I have an auditory processing disorder.'' It was funny, but also touching -- he understood what the problem was and he also had the tools to help other people understand and fix it. Giving your son the tools to explain his situation and also the confidence not to be ashamed of it are invaluable gifts. Point out the things he can learn well and easily, make sure he understands that his glitch applies only to certain situations, and that he can take measures to repair the problem himself. My son is a gifted musician -- yours has gifts as well, and these can be highlighted. My son's ability to understand has actually improved, mostly because I think he has learned coping mechanisms and allows himself to be patient with himself. Good luck in growing your son! can you say that again? slower?

Other parents will have great advice, but I wanted to chime in with a teacher perspective. As a high-school teacher, I applaud you for starting to talk to your kid about his IEP when he's young--many of my 15- and 16-year-olds still don't know how to discuss their identified learning needs.

My main advice is to help him identify when he feels confused. Is it when the teacher is talking but there's no visual component to the instruction? Is it when there are words scattered all over the board? Is it when students are supposed to remember and follow a whole string of instructions? Then talk about what he can ask for in each of those situations.

My most successful students with learning differences know how to politely assert their needs. They will check in with me privately with requests like, ''Can you please give me my own copy of the instructions?'' because they get confused looking at the crowded board at the front of the room, or, ''Can you always call on me second or third so that I have time to think about the question first?'' Best of luck!

Hi, my son is in third grade and uses a wheelchair. He has had an IEP since Kindergarten. I think you have answered your own question quite well. Tell him a little bit about ''how his brain works differently and the methods and tools his teachers, dad and I are building to allow him to be successful in doing whatever he wishes to do'', in kid terms of course, and adjusted for whatever his processing issues are. I think kids KNOW something is up and are much more comfortable talking about their life than we parents are. But we love them so much. We have all this baggage that drives us to protect them but kids are durable. Looking in at our child with a disability, we see the 'dis-'of that word so clearly and in a heighten fashion because of the emotional impact for us personally, but for our kids, this IS their normal. Just like having a special needs kid is now OUR normal. Talk as much as he would like. Or if he doesn't want to, let him know he can come to you anytime with questions. And truly address the core of the emotional meat for him. He doesn't need to know about meetings or IEPs per se, but just to know you and his whole support system are there for him. Everyone is different, in some way, and we all need help, in some way. It's important for our kids (and their classmates) to know that this is what makes us a community. Rebecca

I have not been through this personally but have worked with many parents in situations similar to yours as both a Resource Teacher and a private tutor. I highly recommend you get Dr. Mel Levine's book All Kinds of Minds. Your son should be aware of his strengths and his weaknesses and I think this book will be a great help. Dr. Levine has other books as well but do start with this one. Sharon

My son has an IEP for difficulties with writing, and we had the same problem in kindergarten (he could clearly see that the other kids could draw and write much better than he could, and had concluded that he was stupid). First, I sat down and talked with my son about how everyone had some things that were easy for them, and some things that were hard. I told him that I found things like climbing hard, and reading easy; his dad found writing hard just as he did, but they both found math easy, and so on. We had him talk about a few of his friends -- what was easy, what was hard for them. We had talks like this many times. I'm not sure how I would make this visual, though. Maybe cut out a bunch of pictures representing things to do (a book, some numbers, a basketball, a paintbrush, a musical instrument), and sort them into ''hard'' and ''easy'' for different people? Your school psychologist may have some ideas you could use -- these folks are often amazing. We didn't worry too much about the resource time; many kids left the classroom for many reasons, and it never seemed to be a problem. We do keep in close contact with his teachers, though, to make sure that nothing about this shifts without us knowing. I also suggest you read ''A mind at a time'' by Mel Levine. it contained more detail than I needed, but the philosophy was very helpful. anonymous

I completely understand some of the complexities of explaining to a child how he/she is different than his peers. In our situation, our son was actually relieved to know what it was that made him see the world differently( Aspergers). He was imagining way worse! We have worked from a strengths perspective rather than saying that he's somehow ''deficient'' or defective. He excels at math, science & computers but not as strong in social pragmatics. Keep it positive. These are some places to get some good support:Google if I got the sites wrong (sorry). - PHP- Parents Helping Parents in Santa Clara, great website with all kids of info. on all kinds of LDs, you can talk to someone. - PEN- Parents Education Network same as above but more education oriented. HTH BTDT

It sounds like you and your son are already having excellent conversations! I shall be interested in knowing how other parents respond. My perspective is that of a retired special education teacher and administrator, and as a doting grandparent of a little boy headed for his own IEP. First of all, your son should know that his IEP is a special plan for the way he learns, something all children deserve, but he has a legal right to it. Everybody's brain works differently, but he gets to have a program that acknowledges this.(I went into special ed because it mandated that I teach to the individuality of each learner. ) It will be very important for you and your son to have ongoing conversations about what is working and what is not. I suggest that you encourage your son to use toy figures to role play what has happened each school day. And when IEP meetings come up, use toy figures to role play all of the people who will participate--including him--and how he would like the meeting to go. Let the IEP participants know beforehand the IEP interactions you and your son are roleplaying, and ask what else you might anticipate. I just did a google and found nothing about helping children understand their IEP! You are breaking ground. Best wishes! I look forward, as I said, to others' responses, and I especially would appreciate learning how things are going for you and your son. Pearl


School wants to move 7th grade son from IEP to 504

April 2008


Our 7th grade son has had an IEP for dyslexia and dysgraphia since first grade. Ths school evaluated him for an upcoming IEP and they are recommending that he be ''graduated'' to a 504 plan. This is since our son, who is smart and a superhard worker, has done well in school- gotten good grades, good STAR testing. Of course, he has had tons of turoring and help from us in order to do well. And since resource in the school was lacking and not a good fit, our son did not get direct services this year. I feel like it would be a loss to be moved to 504 from IEP. Like he is being penalized for all his hard work and sacrifice.Any one else have experience with this? What can I do if the school refuses to keep him on an IEP- ask for independant assessment at district's expense?

I would double-check your son's IEP, but if he has dyslexia he probably falls under the category of ''specific learning disability.'' This is one of the qualifying conditions to receive special education services and as such cannot be taken away unless the school can prove that your son's diagnosis is no longer valid. One problem with a 504 is that there is no funding attached. It is also a different law (ADA) which provides fewer safeguards than does IDEA. Good sources of info are and also Good luck.

Basically, the 504 gives him all the accommodations he may have had (reduced penalty for spelling mistakes, extra time on tests, etc), without the help of a Resource or Special Ed aide or teacher. My son did not use his Resource help for the last few years of his IEP, so he was graduated to a 504, and he is very happy about that. He can still take advantage of those accommodations if he wants to, or not. As he's in High School, we're letting him make that choice. However, if you feel your son would benefit from additional help from the school, fight to keep that IEP. It's more cost- effective for them to have your son on a 504 plan, but if you feel he needs more time, say so. Been There

For information and to discuss options, call the Parent Training & Informatin Center at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley (510-644-2555 / Ask to speak with an Education Advocate. You will be put on a first-come/first-served list for a call back. -- The DREDF PTI serves Alameda, Contra Costa and Yolo counties, part of a network funded in part by a grant from the US Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to assist families of school-age children with disabilities, and professionals who work with students with disabilities, to answer these kinds of questions and offer training. DREDF also provides educational advocacy to foster families and foster youth with disabilities under their Foster Youth Resources for Education (FYRE) program. DREDF holds 30-minute IEP Clinics the 1st Tuesday of every month between 10-2. You must call to schedule an appointment. -- If you disagree with the school district evaluation(s), you do have the right to ask for ''an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense.'' Your request must be in writing. The school district must respond in writing to either grant you the independent evaluation(s), or file for a Due Process Hearing to prove to a state administrative law judge that the district's evaluation was appropriate. Understand also that any independent evaluations/reports you have paid for on your own must be considered by your child's IEP team if you bring them into the discussion. Bring with you anyone you need to assist you in your advocacy efforts (tutors, etc.) to speak to your son's needs so the IEP team has all the information you feel they need to consider. Request that the district's ''504 Coordinator'' attend your IEP meeting so you can understand the ramifications and the type of support and accommodations your son will need formalized in a ''504 Plan'' if you agree with an ''exit'' from special education. IDEA law is more protective than Section 504, but having a disability alone does not qualify a child for specialized instruction under an IEP - eligibility is based upon an evaluation process. Do not consent to an IEP you are not in agreement with. It is a legally-binding document. The current IEP in force allows your child to ''stay put'' until you and the district can resolve differences. Alternatively, you can sign to parts of the IEP you agree with and write a note on the IEP stating what parts you object to and your expectation the discussion will continue over those matters with which you do not agree. All IEP decisions are made by team consensus and you are a full member of the IEP team. Ann

To the parent wondering about 504 vs. IEP, this is something that is based on identified needs, arrived at by testing and data, not a choice that one makes in the abstract. It sounds like the school is trying to ''wean'' your son off services, maintaining that he doesn't really need them anymore. If this is true, it must show in the actual data. Have they retested him? His scores must show that his disability is no longer aversely affecting his academic progress. If he is doing so well acdemically, because, as you claim, of all the additional services you have provided him, then you need to make the case, that without such support, he would be doing much worse. He should not be penalized for working so hard. But realize that he would receive accommodations with a 504. Just not services. Outside assessments may not turn up what you are seeking. But you should bring proof of all the support he has been receiving. Share this with the school psychologist. She/He needs to make the case that your son needs the services in order to continue doing well. Without the necessary services he will just slip back down academically. That's your best bet. Resource Specialist

My daughter, who is dyslexic, had a 504 starting her freshman year at Berkeley High. She worked very hard to get good grades and received a lot of tutoring. A year went by and a different high school counselor decided that she didn't need the 504 any longer and would not inform her teachers that she needed more time to complete assignments, even after I provided eigh years of supporting documentation, showing a long history of intervention. Although it wasn't stated clearly, I understood the reason the school didn't want her to get help was because her grades were good. I found out that a 504, unlike an IEP, is based on the discretion of the school and can be taken away without testing. I contacted the counselor, several vice principals, etc and wrote many emails, with very few responses. I offered to have her re-evaluated but was told the school would do that by getting a counselor and VP together, and talking to one or several of her teachers. I cannot understand how dylexia can be evaluated in that way. She took the PSAT without extra testing time. The SAT testing board, once they looked over her documentation, gave her extra testing time (which is not easy to get) and her score was much higher for that test. Her teachers have been very accomodating, otherwise it would have been a very difficult year. I understand from the school's perspective that they are careful that IEPs and 504s not be abused. But is their method fair? It sounds like circular thinking--if the learning disability is being helped, and the student is doing well, take the help away and let the student do badly so that there is proof that they still have the disability so they can get help and do better so it can be taken away... This kind of treatment can be a real setback for someone who is already struggling with a learning disability, especially one like dyslexia which cannot be cured. --Enough struggling

It is really hard to give advice here. But I will share with you a couple of things I learned this year. We transferred into Berkeley High and were denied an IEP (funtioning too well in previous, albeit very small schools with much support for every student, unlike what we knew BHS would be like). We were given a 504 plan instead. We were able to negotiate very generous accommodations, but without a staff advocate for my child (the general academic counselor, who is the one who supervises the 504 plan, was over-worked and not trained in any LD issues), getting teachers to comply was not so easy. What we learned was that the school is restricted to giving IEPs to only 10% of the entire student population without incurring penalties from the state, which is of course unreasonable. Those who need should get, numbers should not be the deciding factor. However, what it would seem to mean is that once you get rejected for an IEP designation or give it up, it will be next to impossible to get it back even if the kid is failing because the school will have granted their 10% without your child. Just thought you should know. I had no idea the school's hands were so tied. think carefully

There is no 10% ''quota'' of students who may be served under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) per school, or per school district. In fact, the U.S. average of children served by IEPs runs about 13-14%, not by any set quota, but based upon the average number of children in the U.S. with such specialized needs. Determination of a child's eligibility and provision of specialized instruction and related services under an IEP is based upon disability and comprehensive evaluation and multiple assessment measures. There is no blanket percentage ''cut-off'' quota, after which even students who would qualify for special education services will be turned away, which is what the poster seems to have been told. This is not consistent with IDEA and civil rights anti-discrimination laws. Anyone hearing such a statement might request, in writing, that the person saying it put it in writing, and/or provide this particular district or school ''policy.'' Civil rights concerns such as this should certainly be brought to the attention of the district administrative powers-that-be and oversight bodies (hopefully this assertion did not originate there), and if needed, the CA Department of Education (CDE) Office of Procedural Safeguards and Referral Services (PSRS), CDE Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR). everlearn


Battling the school district on son's IEP

June 2007


Our 5-year-old son has gross and fine motor skill delays. He has been receiving OT and speech through our school district. In addition, he attends the district's special day preschool 2 days/week, and a mainstream preschool 3 days/wk. Last week we held an IEP meeting to discuss kindergarten. The district seems to have 2 possible options - 1)mainstream him in a regular kindergarten, with no accommodation for his motor skill problems, or 2) keep him in special ed, and try to mainstream him over the course of the year. Neither seem like good options to us - he needs something in between. What do other district do/offer, or how do I find out? I have no idea what is really out there, but I do know that our district is not great at innovative solutions! Also, is there some kind of a forum like BPN for parents of special needs kids? Thanks! E

You don't say what district your child is in, so it's difficult to answer your questions appropriately.

There is a solution in Oakland for kids with speech/language issues, and if the child also needs OT for fine motor delays, he will receive it on a ''pull out'' basis.

Perhaps the district is considering that kindergarten is not really a time of intense fine motor work. There's writing, and art, and fine motor play. But it may be that they think your child will do well socially and will be motivated to work himself on his fine motor projects.

If he's not very motivated in this area, you need to press on the issue and request additional OT, if that's what you think he needs. I'd be more concerned about whether he needs support in the speech area myself; depending on your district and school, kindergarten can be a highly verbal year. You don't want him to get frustrated because he doesn't understand what's expected of him and everyone else ''gets it''. That's where behavior starts to crop up as a problem.

Go back to the IEP table and ask for additional services if that's what you want. If he's more capable than the most capable child in the special day class, you will not want to place him there. Most important - visit each class so you can observe, take notes and visualize how you think he would fit in. hope that's a little help. - Nancy

It isn't legal for the district to refuse needed support services if your child is in a regular classroom. The law regulating special education states that a child should be in the ''least restrictive environment'' that meets his needs. Our child is in special ed in BUSD and, like most special ed elementary school students in this district, is in a regular classroom with supports. Different districts have different programs available, but if your child can function well in a regular classroom but needs therapy services, the district can't deny you that option. You can contact Disability Rights Education Foundation (DREDF) for help with IEPs, they're in the phonebook. A yahoo group you might want to look into is specialneedsnetwork. Good luck to you! Jessica


IEP - does my 3rd grader qualify? (WCCUSD)

May 2007


Our third grade son was evaluated by his public school (at our request) because he is a struggling reader and seems to need more time than his peers to complete tasks and formulate responses. The assessments found that he is extremely bright, and found only one area of concern (involving visual memory), which is impeeding his learning to read. There was a drastic difference in this score and his other scores.

The upshot is that the school says that he does not qualify for services (reading pull-out help, for example), because he ''tested too high'' and is still at grade level (albeit barely).

Is this the case? He feels very bad about himself as a learner, is struggling to read, and is not making much progress. There is an on-site reading specialist, but he does not qualify to see her. I am not sure what his rights are, or how to even find out! Any insights welcome! WCCSD Mom

I understand your frustration -- my very bright son was in a similar situation with very high test scores despite a disability that was seriously affecting his ability to write. From talking to teachers, this happens A LOT in this district. I'm sure it's a financial issue -- there are so many kids that need help that the district can't afford to help them. We were able to get him services through a combination of things -- he had a teacher who really went to bat for him, and we had him independently evaluated and were able to bring in an outside neuropsychological evaluation that held some weight. Another parent I know went over the head of the principal and school psychologist and involved someone at the district level in her IEP meetings. Don't give up -- if you think your son needs help, he probably does, regardless of how well he is doing in other areas. It really is a case of the squeaky wheel, and it's unfortunate that many kids don't have someone to be a strong advocate for them. Good Luck! WCCUSD IEP Mom


Are there issues based on the IEP category?

March 2007


Has anyone had experience with an IEP when their child has issues that cross many categories but doesn't really qualify under one particular category (i.e. speech, emotional disturbance, autism...).

My son is in kindergarten. He has ADHD and speech delays and currently has an aide. His school is in the process of assessing him & it looks like the category that most clearly fits him (by the school's rules) is ''emotional disturbance''. This shocks me since in all our years of doctors & assessments this has never been mentioned. But, looking at the schools definition of ''emotional disturbance'' he does seem to qualify.

I guess I'm wondering if there are any issues with having him qualify for resources based on the category of ''emotional disturbance''. With all his other issues I never saw these behaviors as a problem, I thought they were just a result of him being immature & hopefully would eventually resolve themselves - it's a shock to learn differently.

I've always been comfortable with him qualifying for an IEP under speech & just want to understand if anything changes or gets limited by us changing categories. The problem really is that althought it's acknowledged that he has serious issues & needs support no one has been able to successfully determine a solution for all his issues.

Thanks for the help. Upset & Confused

I don't live where you live, but I do live with a special education teacher, and from what I understand you should be looking at the additional resources that are available to you under that classification. I know it is difficult to think of your child having an ''emotional disturbance'' but so much of these labels are based on somewhat gross generalizations. Having this label attached to your kid is not going to change your relationship to him or his behavior, but it may give you access to more support that he might actually need like behavior therapy to help him find ways moderate his actions in a positive way. I would ask your teacher what the benefits are of switching his IEP and what the costs are, and then make a decision. You are in charge, ultimately, so if it really doesn't sit well with you, demand that he not be changed over to that grouping. Also, see if you can connect with any other parents in your school/district to get advice on resource follow through. just a thought

The short answer is that a child who qualifies should receive intervention in all areas of need, though qualifying for speech alone probably has the most limitations. The school may be considering mental health services from the county in its recommendation for ED. Your situation sounds too complicated to answer here in a general way - please feel free to contact me with more information and we can talk about what your child's options might be. Dana
Negotiating the Maze Special Education Advocacy, Research, Support

Dear Upset, 1) What school district are you? 2)I don't know if there is a downside, other than not receiving services. If you need/want psych services as part of the IEP services, then I think SED is a good fit. We were in the same boat that you were at the end of kindergarten, and the team wavered between SED and OHI. They ended up going with OHI (Other Health Impaired) which is so vague that is could cover anything.

Have a look at the rewrite of the Oakland forms if you are in Oakland; they were revised last summer, and there is explanatory material. (I searched ''serious emotional disturbance iep services oakland'' to find that one. No quotes when you do the search, though.)

Remember that your child is so young that it may be hard for anyone to diagnose authoritatively. Our son went from PDD-NOS to NVLD over the course of 4 years as therapies helped and he aged and grew into his brain and body. You may have one handicapping condition this year and a new one at the next triannual.

So if you want the psych services, be open to it. But as I have said: I don't know if there is a downside. Let's see if there is another answer out there in BPN land. good luck! - Nancy

I used to work with kids with special needs in a Bay Area school district -- consider hiring an advocate. Sure, it's not cheap, but it's been my experience that the district will give you more of what you want when you have outside help on your side. It doesn't have to be confrontational... ask around for good advocates. k

Hi! My understanding that as a teacher and parent of two special ed kids is that they have to qualify for one of the 13 categories in order to have an IEP and receive services. It sounds like the school is trying to help you keep the services you have, which is good. I played up my youngest son's issues in order to receive the services he desperately needed, as he was borderline and would have been an easy target to deny.

It feels totally unnatural as a parent, but yields the result you want in the end.

ADHD alone generally only means a Sec. 504, but not special ed, and therefore, no IEP. anon

Emotionally Disturbed is such a charged category, that unless your child really fits that medical (not school) profile, avoid it. It depends on your school district, but there's a tendency to segregate such children into a special day classroom rather than providing support to learn in a general classroom.

A child can qualify under multiple categories as well as OHI -- Otherwise Health Impaired. It would be very helpful to consult a special education advocate who understands the process.

At this point, the smart thing to do is to get your child a private, professional neuropsych evaluation. It is money will spent to understand exactly what his disabilities are, how they mask his intelligence, and a roadmap for helping him grow. Children don't grow out of behavior; they learn with the help of parents & teachers, and when needed, therapists. -- Been There

My kid does not have ADHD, so I can't help with specific advice, but this website might be of interest and help: You could also sign up for the specialneedsnetwork[at]yahoogroups, and post there. good luck

I have a son who had an IEP with no clear cut 'diagnosis' but issues that went across the spectrum. I would be careful about relying on the school's testing and assessment as much as you are. If you haven't I would highly recommend getting a private neuropsych assessment done. It will cost you $3,500 but if you go to the right person it will be the best money you ever spent. Make sure they are a true neuropsych like Kristin Gross or Carina Grandison in Oakland. You will have all the answers you need including what he needs from his IEP. anon

I teach at a non-public school for children with special needs. I know the term emotional disturbance is very unsavory and some may feel a stigma attached to it. However, do not despair! I have several points to make: 1. Emotional disturbance (ED) is an educational term and not from the DSM-IV, the manual which psychiatrists use. 2. It is not necessarily a permanent label. I have had students whose ''qualifying condition'' for special education has changed even if the services haven't. 3. the most important thing is getting the right services for your son and support for your family. The ED label may get you more intensive services which may be what is needed at this time. Honestly, I do not think of my students as their labels but as the individuals they are. A good program and teacher will too. 4. Finally as a parent of a student in special education you have alot of rights. Contact CASE, an advocacy group to educate yourself and get support at future IEPs and with services and placement decisions. I hope this helps! a Special Ed teacher

Obviously each diagnosis carries with it a certain bias toward certain kinds of support and away from others. For instance, a child with a physical disability wouldn't be offered speech therapy if his/her speech were unaffected. But in principle, the IEP is just that: an INDIVIDUALIZED education plan, which thus offers your child whatever services are required to meet the goals set in the IEP, regardless of which box is checked as the qualifying diagnosis. The only thing I'd say about a speech qualification is that it is contingent on the opinon of speech therapists who may, in theory, one day decide your child no longer needs services. Other diagnoses, such as autism, are life-long diagnoses, so there's no danger of the special ed designation being pulled by the district. The labels are always disturbing at first, but I learned pretty fast that they are fairly irrelevent, since no child is a textbook case of anything. I no longer see my child's label as a curse, but rather as a means to an end: by accepting the label, I entitle my child to the help and support he needs to be successful in school. I have no interest in showing the district all the ways my son does not conform to the symptoms of his label--I see it as a tool that helps, rather than hurts us. As for the label affecting his social situation or how he is treated by the teacher, my feeling has been that people were going to know my child was different whether he came with a label or not, so there wasn't much harm in putting a name on how he was different, esp. because teachers are often too overworked to even read IEP's (not that that's a good thing), and no one else--not other students or other teachers--is allowed to see anything about your child or his or her diagnosis. I guess I'm saying that I wouldn't worry so much about whether or not your child really looks like the ''typical'' version of any particular label, but rather ask yourself what will get your child the most support and services that he/she needs for the period of time you think he'll need it. By the way, among my friends with children with special needs, the common opinion is that the label you want least is actually that of ADHD, since it's probably the one the teacher has heard of, and about which the teacher probably already has a bunch of preconceived notions, which affects how he/she approaches and deals with your child. I've yet to meet a teacher who knew the first thing about Aspergers, for instance, so seeing that on an IEP doesn't really prejudice them, since they have no idea what it looks like. Also, it's not that easy to get an IEP for ADHD--you are often offered the accomodation route instead (I think it's called a 504). Good luck! been there

I have lots of IEP experience but no answer for your specific question. I just wanted to write in case nobody else on BPN knows- and even if you do get other answers, I wouldn't trust most internet posters for accuracy on such a vital question for your son's educational future. Maybe you could get a legal advocate, or even consult with an attorney about this question. Also, you can learn a lot at or maybe call Protection and Advocacy (PAI) 510-267-1200 good luck


IEP for 5th grader with mental health issues

March 2006


I've been advised that I should advocate for an IEP (individual education plan) for my fifth grader, who has been out of school for more than three weeks now with psychiatric issues. She is currently doing independent study using work from her teacher at home.

Has anyone from BPN gone through the process of getting an IEP for mental health issues? I'm particularly interested in knowing how long the process might take. We're near the end of March now, and come June, she'll be done with her school for good(they stop at fifth grade). We might get the IEP too late to really do anything at this current school, if it takes a while to get. anon, please

I don't have experience with this exact issue but I do have experience with IEP's. It seems to me you should be forming now the IEP team she will have at her new school, in 6th grade. I recommend meeting with the program specialist & psychologist soon before this school term ends. They will need to review her reports and with you, formulate her plan. I assume you would have her personal psychiatrist involved in those meetings as well. Depending on her issues, it might be nice for her to start touring the school, meeting some of her teachers, or what not. If you wait until next fall you may not be able to meet until October, then changes don't get implemented until November, and you've lost 2 or 3 months. Plus I think if is possible her problems may flare up during school hours, there needs to be some teacher education about her issues and also a specific plan for what to do when this happens. Good luck, stay aggressive in advocating for your daughter. You have the legal right to have an enviroment for her that works. anon

You can definitely get an IEP for a child based on emotional/psychiatric issues. Many districts have classes for children who are SED/ED (severely emotionally disturbed or Emotionally Disturbed. What you need to do is write a formal letter asking that your daughter be assessed. If she has a diagnosis from a pyschiatrist I would also include this information in the letter as well. Tell them you are concerned that she is missing school due to these issues and that you would like her to be evaluated for special education services. This is a good site to reference and you can call them for help as well.

I saw your post on the IEP process and I am SPED teacher at a school that deals with Emotionally Disturbed students of all ages. Although I primarily work with the middle and high schoolers. As far as the timing of the IEP process, if you have not had any prior assessments done (usually by the school/district) then it could be somewhat lengthy. However, the process is supposed to be as quick as possible legally and you can push for immediacy. With most distrcits, ou get what you ask for and I recommend asking for everything you think would help your child. First of all, based on the info you gave, it sound like your child may be eligible for placement in a therapeutically intesive school setting such as a non public school (an NPS) as opposed to being secluded at home with no direct educational teaching forma teacher. MY recommendation is to intervene as early as possible so that your fifth grader can get the services and the help that he/she needs to get back to his/her life in a mainstream public school environment. Additionally, as far as your concern about the end of the academic year coming to a close quite quickly, you might consider that should your child be eligble for a NPS placement, most of them are year round schools and your child could be getting individual. group and art therapy during the summer as well. Good Luck!

Both my chidren have had problems attending school, they have 504 plans, the next step would be a IEP. It depends on how severe your problem is and how long your child will be out of school. The IEP is a more formal process. For instance if your child may be able to attend school for long periods and be out of school for for only weeks at a time, I recommend the 504 plan as being more flexible. The IEP is, in my opinion, for long term issues of High frequency. When you ask for an IEP do it in writing. The school is obligated to reply to your request in two weeks to a month after evaluation and a plan must be put in place. Schools do not like the IEP due to the restrictive nature and the councilers may try to persuade you that this is not the way to go. That could be possible but check out all the options. I always opted for the 504 plan over the IEP. I heald the IEP as an incentive for the teaching staff to comply with whatever program we had in place. The Curves Lady


Need help writing an IEP for my son

April 2004


I was told by my son's Pediatrician that I need to get my son an IEP pronto. I am looking for help in creating and tracking of same. Does anyone know if there is software or an interactive website that would be beneficial? Thank you. worried mom

The best book I've seen on this - esp. for the first-time IEP writer - is Lawrence Siegel's book ''The Complete IEP Guide'' which was last updated I believe in March 2001. I used this before my 1st IEP and have used it for reference since. It's a great workbook approach and has a ton of sample letters, documents etc. for correspondence - all very useful. It's a Nolo press book, so you can check at their outlet and other stores; it's also carried at major chains and Amazon. And we got precisely what we needed at the IEP, so I think the track record supports the book. Regards Nancy

Besides the Nolo Press book already recommended (''The Complete IEP Guide''), you might give FRN (Family Resource Network 510-547- 7322) a call. They have a newsletter and workshops on IEPs from time to time. Good luck. Many IEPs Later

An excellent source of information about IEPs can be found at a website called They have publications for sale about special education issues and send out an online newsletter every couple weeks with updates about seminars, training classes, etc. They have a book titled, ''Special Education Law: from Emotion to Advocacy'', that was extremely useful. Another source of information here in Berkeley is a group called DREDF(Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund). They put on training seminars and can provide one-on-one assistance with preparing for IEPs etc. They are very busy so don't expect a call back the next day. Hang in there. Don't be afraid to insist on what your child needs. matheny


IEP for Private School Student?

March 2003


Is this an oxymoron, or can an IEP be established for a student in a private school as a way to obtain government-funded services for the child in-school or out? Who does one go to? What is the impact on the child's academic record? anonymous

Every school-aged child in California is entitled to an IEP, whether in public or private school. However, you should be aware that the district will most likely require that testing happen during school hours, at their location, not your child's, and that any services provided also happen during school hours, at their location. In our district (Piedmont), the testing team kept in contact with the private school teacher (who had asked for the assessment), and would have included her in the IEP meeting had our daughter qualified for services. Even though she didn't qualify, it was worth having gone through the process, because we brought her back to public school in middle school and they already had a record of her academic issues. Cynthia

Every child should have a right to an IEP, and it's been decentralized, so you could start with the principal of the local school that your child would go to if he or she were not in a private school. If that doesn't work, I would suggest calling the school district and seeing if they can point you in the right direction. Anon

My understanding is that local school districts are more or less required to offer testing and other assessment of kids with learning differences, but that they get to decide whether and to what extent they will offer IEP assistance and other assistance for kids with learning differences. In Oakland, the school system apparently will test but not offer actual assistance and support beyond testing. This is a very sore point for my family and in the community of the independent school our son attends because we do pay taxes to support the public school system but have no access to the public services we need to address our son's learning differences. It is a real strain on many families to pay directly for the support services needed for kids with learning differences. My understanding is that there is a substantial wait time in many districts to get access to testing and services. Our impression of Oakland was that you essentially need to imply you are putting your child in the Oakland public schools in order to get access even to testing. Good luck! Maybe you are in a city that is more open with its public services for kids with learning differences. Dave

I am a teacher in a public school and I understand that you are eligible to seek services through the public school district that your child would go to had you not opted to send him/her to a private one. I would call the district office for your area and get in touch with the Special Services department. Elaine

In order to have an IEP, you would have to contact the school nearest your home or your school district special education department and write a letter requesting a special education assessment to see if your child qualifies for services. If he/she does, then they would have to go to the nearest public school to recieve the service. To my knowledge, they do not provide service at private schools. good luck janette

Just a few more thoughts to add: put everything in writing, definitely your request for an IEP once you find the correct contact. You will have to prove that your public district cannot properly serve your child's needs; start gathering as much information, in writing, as you can about her/his issues and needs to support that. You could also contact the Family Resource Network (510-547-7322) and Nolo Press for some pamphlets or books about the IEP process. Good luck to you in this arduous process!! Anon

Private schools have no duty to accomodate students--an IEP in a private school is indeed an oxymoron. Some private schools will do informal accomodations, which you would work out through teacher(s) or the principal, or both. Some are very good at this. Some won't do it at all.

There are certainly specialized private schools who take public school students with IEP's, but that is because they contract with public schools and are essentially ''in the business'' of supplying services to them. Usually these schools have nothing BUT referred public school students, who are generally severely disabled. These students, however, start out through the public system. also anonymous


IEP for Gifted Child?

Dec 2002


In some states, IEPs are written for gifted children as well as for children with disabilities. It doesn't seem to be standard practice in California, however. Has any of you done this, or investigated it, as a means of getting a more appropriate education for a gifted child. If so, what happened? What did you learn?
Parent of very bored, good kid

You're right, there is no mandate for gifted IEPs in California. Districts decide individually whether to take money for gifted education at all and how to use it. Though it is supposed to serve gifted kids in a different way than non-gifted kids, it doesn't always operate that way, because there's an attitude that addressing gifted kids' needs is somehow elitist or undemocratic. Unless you find a class or school that serves gifted kids specifically (I think there's at least one in LA or San Diego), you can forget your kid being served by the public school system in any systematic way. You may occasionally find a teacher willing to work with you, but who may still need educating; in that case, I recommend Susan Winebrenner's Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom. The rest is up to you to find outside of school - Stanford's EPGY program, Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth (though I think they've changed the name), Berkeley's ATDP - all very expensive, though there are scholarships. We moved from a place with a very good gifted pull-out class where most kids were pretty anti- intellectual to one where learning is respected, so our experience with public school is to live where your kid will go to school with other kids who want to learn and will challenge, support, and compete with your kid. Dana

Last year our son was totally bored in kindergarten. He had started public school after two years in Montessori preschool and was reading at a 5th grade level, doing simple multiplication, playing tournament chess and asking his dad to explain WWII. Not your typical public school kindergartener. We wanted to skip him to 2nd grade and opened a can of worms, starting the IEP process. The teacher and principal were very supportive. Academics-wise, the conclusion was that he could easily go into 2nd grade. A psychologist assessed his behavior on the playground and suggested he enter 1st grade. Result: he is now terminally bored in 1st grade, won't do his homework and his teacher recommends we get him out of public school and into the best private school we can find. Even if a child is ''gifted'' in the lower grades, there really isn't much the teacher can do to vary the lesson among 20+ kids. He is doing SRA reading and math at his own pace, but that's about it. Don't know if this helps shed some light on your situation. Good luck getting a good education for your child. I guess I would just say be proactive. kl

In the Berkely Unified School District, you can request a Student Study Team review of your child's needs. Most people think of SST as only being for ''problem kids'' but they should serve all parents/teachers/students needing support. SST includes the child's teacher and sometimes past teacher, a teacher from a higher grade, someone from Special Ed., and anyone else can be invited who may have input (GATE teacher, psychologist, etc.) The goal is to brainstorm ideas that will better help the child succeed. Some things to think about: time in a higher grade for a subject area the child excells in, like math; grade accelleration (consider lots of testing before going here) outside activities/support, etc. Ask how GATE is administered in your school. You can reqest an accounting of how differentiated instruction is being applied to your child if he/she is in the GATE program (GATE in Berekely begins in 4th grade.) Follow-up SSTs will also be scheduled to see how things are working out. Be aware that some schools have SSTs every week, but they are often booked months in advance and other schools only schedule on an as-needed basis. SSTs are more problem-solving and do not have the binding capacity of IEP anon

IEP's are for students who are in Special Education. Being GATE doesn't qualify as Special Ed. I doubt that your friends' children really have IEPs since Federal laws about serving students with special needs are what determine who qualifies as special ed. The students you know may have a 504 plan in place. These are individualized plans for students who have needs that don't qualify for Special Ed. Usually these are for kids who have needs, but can still function in a regular classroom but need modifications. (Students with ADD, ODD, low vision, stuttering, etc.)

I haven't heard of these for students who are GATE though. Plus, I don't think that 504 or an IEP can really address your child's issue. If the teacher is boring, there isn't a whole lot that the plan for your child can do about it. The teacher would probably just give her extra work to do or tell her to bring a book to class and read once the regular class work is completed. (In the teacher's defence, if your child is in an average heterogeneous classroom here in the bay area, chances are there are 35 kids in the room and at least 4 of them are functionally illiterate, and one third to half the class is below grade level. Add to that kids with behavior problems, and then the regular work that goes into the job - preparing lessons from the text, creating new lessons, making photocopies, grading, decorating classrooms, organizing/cleaning a classroom, meeting with parents, involvement in extra curricular activities, etc. ... well kids who are smart and capable of doing the work and bored are probably not the highest priority. That is not to say that your child doesn't have needs that should be met, just that the demands on that teacher are overwhelming and so not every child's personal needs can be met.)

Has your child been tested and designated GATE? If so then the school is receiving money from the state to provide enrichment, and you should ask the school what that is. At some schools it is special feild trips, or books that can be checked out, or a classroom computer, at others it is a separate class. What ever it is, they need to provide services to the students for whom they receive funds. Usually there is a committee at the school that involves parents of GATE kids to determine how that money should be spent also, get involved in it so that it is being spent in a way that will benefit the kids most. a teacher


How to get school to comply with 504 plan?

March 2002


I am wondering if other parents in the Oakland Public Schools have suggestions for how to gain compliance with a 504 plan. I have a third grader who has been diagnosed with a mild learning disability called dysgraphia. We had a meeting with the school (his teacher, the resource specialist, the principal and the occupational therapist) and came up with a plan back in December. Part of the plan was for the child to receive OT through the district which he is, but other parts of the plan are not being met. What is the procedure for gaining compliance? I've talked briefly with the Resource Specialist, and she seemed surprised that it wasn't getting taken more seriously. Does anyone know of a good approach to take? Thanks.

I hate to say it, but after working in several school districts as a support professional, I know that the ''squeaky wheel'' gets the grease. The biggest fear that a school district has is having to go to court over a non-compliance issue. First of all, they know that they will lose; secondly, it costs the district more to even PREPARE to go to court than it does to appease a parent who is trying to enforce their child's IEP plan. You don't have to be ugly about it, but just letting them know that court is not your first choice in order to get things implemented will get your message across loud and clear -- good luck! anonymous