Special Education/change pf placement

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Question
Our son has ADHD and a speech delay and OCD. I want to be clear that he really has OCD. Its so different than the repetitiveness that may characterize some autism because it's very random and is not about sameness overall, it's about some things being specifically a certain way sometimes and wanting new things constantly to maintain interest. It's a weird balance. I never saw real OCD until this. Usually you think of nail biters and OCD personalities, not people who's brains lock on something and are afraid. Our son doesn't need help in reading or math. He has language needs and the weaknesses. The thing is we have reached a point where he's great at home. The worst that happens is he's making jokes instead of working and we can easily work around that. They are nice at school but doing everything wrong. We don't want him in a self contained class because there are no peer models. He was in a self contained class once and the school admitted it was a disaster. He was too smart and the same problems he has now were there in much higher magnitude, not less. He likes excitement and more stuff. Because they can't do what they need to, they proposed the self contained class again. It's so weird to us because it was so much worse. We want to work with the school but this is absurd. If something isn't as good as it needs to be, the solution isn't to make it worse, to separate a kid out and make everything harder for him.  He was never receiving adequate support. If the school pushes the change, do they have to take us to due process? Because we will not even consider it. Their self contained class in our opinion is atrocious for all the kids but we know it was awful for our kid. Any insight you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks!!

Answer
Tessa,

Schools use self-contained classrooms as the least expensive catchall for kids with special needs. For example, I fight all the time for placing high-functioning autistic kids in regular classes with aide support. Districts don't want to do this because of the cost of the aides. I frequently have to file for Due Process to make them do what is needed. If you don't agree to sign an IEP or an assessment plan, the school district can, and often will, file for Due Process against you.

Regardless of who files against whom, it boils down to the battle of the experts. Districts have Ph.D.s on staff that can testify against you. Unless you have your own experts, you will loose 9 out of 10 times. You should consider having your son assessed by your own expert. This expert has to find your son capable of attending general education or resource classes with aide support. This person also has to explain why the self-contained classroom does not meet your son's unique needs. Make sure you pick an expert that is knowledgeable and a great communicator. When you get to due process, this person will have to stand up to the cross examination of the district's lawyers. A good place to look for these experts is in past Due Process Decisions. Your state's Office of Administrative Law (or equivalent) will have a website where you can review all past Due Process Decisions. Look for ones that the parents win and the judge acknowledges the testimony of the expert witness.

It is going to be a fight, but I have found most often the only way to get the services high functioning autistic children need is to file for Due Process. If your filing is strong and your expert is well respected, better still feared, by the school district, you can often settle in Mediation. I have been able to settle over 90% of the filings I have made.

Once you have the findings of your expert, you need to submit a copy to the district and call for an IEP. It's best if you can have your witness attend this IEP to present the findings and recommendations.

There is one trap to avoid: if you ask for an IEE (Independent Education Evaluation) the district is supposed to agree to offer one or file for Due Process against you. If your expert's findings are very different from the district's assessment results, you may be able to get the IEE. But keep in mind, the law only requires the district to "consider" the findings of your expert. If they agree to an IEE, it must be conducted by someone that both you and the district agree on. And the district is not bound by their findings.  

Special Education

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Tim Runner

Expertise

Questions concerning special education: IEP, assessments, Due Process, mediation, resolution conference, federal law, state law, qualifying for services, residential treatment, special day classes, resource specialists, procedures, having your child assessed, adaptive PE, speech & language, non-public school, FAPE, and tuition reimbursement.

Experience

I have been an education advocate representing students and parents for six years. My experience includes: representing my clients in IEPs, SSTs, Due Process, review assessment results for my clients, and mediations. I have represented clients with learning disabilities, autism, Downs Syndrome, cognitively challenged, emotional problems, learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and physical disabilities. I have also represented clients to County Mental Health Departments and Regional Centers. My clients range from pre-school to college students in many states.

Education/Credentials
I have a degree in Mathematics from the University of California with minors in Psychology and Physics. I also studied applied statistics in psychology at the graduate level. I have taught college classes, conducted seminars, written articles for various publications, and testified as an expert witness.

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