Special Education/secondary diagnosis


Our 10 yr old daughter has had an IFSP/IEP since she was 3 months old. In her IEP, her disability is listed as mental retardation, which is accurate.

However, she also has been diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech and motor apraxia, which the school district has refused to acknowledge. (They read the reports from outside speech therapists and OTs and simply say that after doing their own testing, their internal specialists don't agree with the externals. We could take them to court, but that's too expensive.

I finally took our daughter to a neurologist, who diagnosed her with motor, speech and visual-motor apraxia. He wrote a letter to her case manager, stating this diagnosis (and told me he couldn't understand why they didn't see it...) I followed up the letter with an email to the case mgr, requesting that this secondary diagnosis be added to our daughter's IEP.

Here is her response: "Given that eligibility and handicapping conditions are reviewed every 3 years, this request can be taken into consideration during her upcoming triennial in 6th grade. In the mean time, I will reflect her most recent diagnosis in her present levels of performance."

Is this true? Do we have to wait until the next triennial?

Thanks in advance for your answer.


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Hi Ellen,

Thank you very much for writing to me and for using this service!  I hope my answer will assist you and give you the information you are seeking.

Your daughter has an IEP under the eligibility category of "Mental Retardation" (now called Intellectual Disability in many states).  You asked the school to list Apraxia as a 'secondary diagnosis' on your daughter's IEP.  The school responded that the Apraxia diagnosis will be considered during a reevaluation in 6th grade, and that in the meantime, the school will add the 'most recent' diagnosis in the IEP in the section called "Present Levels" of educational achievement and functional performance.

A reevaluation should be conducted at least once every three years, but it can be conducted as often as the school and parent agree.  The reevaluation would not be more frequent than once per year, unless the school and parent agree.  So you can see that the reevaluation can be conducted more frequently than every three years.  

Moreover the school has an obligation to consider any information parents provide.  I think that a meeting is needed now, since asking the school to revise the IEP without a meeting did not produce the desired result.  

Disabilities are different from diagnoses.  Apraxia is a diagnosis that must be translated into a disability which are defined at this link:

Does the Apraxia result in an orthopedic impairment?  Or a speech language impairment?  Multiple disability?
If so, perhaps you should write back to the school, using the language of the definitions at this link, requesting that your daughter's 'eligibility' be changed to include an additional disability.  If that does not work, I would advise you to ask for a meeting.  

At the meeting, I think you should be prepared to show how the Apraxia affects your daughter, what she needs because of the Apraxia, and how the IEP should be changed in other parts (accommodations, modifications, services, etc.) to address the Apraxia.

I would like to explore these guiding questions with you:
What additional services or interventions or change of placement should occur if the IEP lists Apraxia?
How does the Apraxia affect your daughter's progress, access to curriculum or ability to make progress?  
Does she need different or additional methods, services, or interventions?

If you can show the team how the new or different disability affects your daughter and why you are concerned that it is addressed fully in the IEP, I think you will have a better chance of successfully addressing the Apraxia.  Just changing the eligibility may not make a big difference in her program.  

I hope this helps you as you advocate for your daughter! Feel free to follow up with me, and please consider letting me know how it works out for you.  If you have reached a point where you are seeking expert help with how to navigate this issue, please consider ABCs for Life Success!  Thanks again for writing to me and for using this service!  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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