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Special Education/Asbperger's, executive disfuction, anxiety, severe depression, ADHD


Hi, My Daughter is 14 year's old.  She was diagnosed with severe Asperger's, ADHD, Severe depression, anxiety, and executive dysfunction a little over a year ago.  Her anxiety and depression also result in her cutting.  In addition her testing showed that she has an IQ of 138.  She is extremely smart, has been coding computer web pages (from scratch since the age of 8, she has perfect pitch, in a very talented artist (drawing) and a superb writer.  Yet even with all those talents she struggles greatly in school.  It neuropsychologist said it took us this long to diagnose her because she we so smart.  Teachers have said to me since kindergarten "she would be best not to question the teacher and just do what she is told".  

  Her grades range from A's to D's  with the average being a C.  Even though her grades do not qualify her for honors classes all her teachers recommended her for honors.  She is going to be starting high school in September, and has been excepted into all honors classes as well as the technical program(CTE).  We have a very large high school campus (about  3500 kids).  I met with the Dean of freshman to explain to her Serena’s issues.  She said she would set her up with the adjustment counselor for orientation this past Tuesday.    Serena saw her for about 5 minutes, and then she was separated from her.  Serena became overwhelmed and cried most of the 4 hours.  She is so anxious over school that she began cutting again after a year of not cutting.  

    Her main issues are: she is not able to find her way around (even though she was at the same school for 2 years) she is constantly late for class because of this.  She then gets so overwhelmed that she can't remember her books, homework or what was even discussed in class.  She takes every thing VERY literally (so if the teacher says know can turn something in late or incomplete, she will not turn it in even if it is missing one question, or I got permission from the teacher).  She can not handle yelling or distractions of any kind (whether it is directed at her or someone else. she can not organize her stuff.  she will NEVER throw away anything from a class (because she might need it, so she saves everything for the whole year).

   She does have a 504 plan, because they won't give her an IEP, (they say that because she has a C average she is accessing the curriculum). I feel the 504 is not enough.  The anxiety that going to school causes is jeopardizing her health (cutting, depression, anorexia, sleep deprivation).  I feel if she had someone at the school to help er organize her things (on a daily basis, at least at the end of the day) as well as someone who could help her get to class she would excel.  They saw this is not possible, she does not qualify.

   I have had her psychiatrist and MSW write letters.   She takes all her medications as prescribed. I meet with the school regularly.  I do not know what to do.  I am considering legal action, because I am scared for my daughter.  If I could afford it I would put her in a Montessori school or like place. Any suggestions would be helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Hi Shelly,  Unfortunately, so many young people and parents are experiencing the same issues as you have described to me in this excellent question.  

Perhaps you are not aware, but the 504 Plan can contain specialized instruction, special education, related and supplementary aides and services and a wide range of accommodations.  

See this guidance by the US DOE.

Also, the criteria for eligibility for the IEP is three pronged:
1--student meets one of the definitions of disability
2- there is an adverse effect of the disability on the child's education
3--the child needs special education, defined as specially designed instruction.

The first suggestion I have is that you obtain evaluation or written documentation from all the private professionals working with your daughter to make recommendations consistent with what you said she needs.  The next suggestion is to be sure that the evaluation information is up to date.  Grades are not enough alone to justify one decision or another. And if you are helping her with assignments, projects, homework, I would advise you to stop doing that.  

The key is to connect her disability or diagnosed conditions with the adverse effects on her education and to prove that she requires special education to receive a free appropriate public education, FAPE.  FAPE is about making significant and meaningful progress, mastering goals and curriculum concepts, and overall receiving what is needed for her to live an independent life. Many districts have twice exceptional specialists, who can help educate the staff about her giftedness and her disabilities.  

It may be the case that you are in need of a dispute option such as a mediation or due process hearing.  I do an IEP audit that can help you figure out whether you are in a position to prevail in these situations.  If you are interested, email me at

She will likely need mental health services in the 504 or IEP as educators may not understand the complexity of her learning profile.  

Here is a nice article about using prior written notice as a tool.

See how the school has to document its decisions to refuse special education?  It has to document what reports it relied upon to refuse the IEP, and to reject your requests.  So please pay attention to your prior written notice.  What reports did the district rely upon to refuse your requests?  Inspect those reports and get a second opinion to refute the reports.  Then the district will have to rely on your reports !  

I hope this has helped you. Please feel free to follow up! Thanks so much for writing to me and remember, a phone consult with me is free!  301.593.5166

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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); 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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