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Special Education/I thinky 10 year old has dyspraxia

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Question
Hi,

My daughter is 10 years old and in the 5th grade. Every since she was very little, I was aware that something was wrong with her speech. When she was three, she could only say about 5 words. But she met all other mile stones on time. She has received speech therapy since she was three years old, and is still currently seeing a speech therapist outside of the school. She received speech therapy in school from kindergarten through 2nd grade, but having therapy in a group setting seemed to actually make her regress instead of improve. I assumed it was because she was seeing all of the other students improve around her, and she never was, so she became very shy and withdrawn, so I decided to move her back to a private care therapist two years ago.

When she was three, I was told by her speech therapist that all speech impediments are the same, and all cured the same way. But after years of seeing little improvement in my child's speech, I started doing more research, and found out that she may have dyspraxia.

Her handwriting is very poor (she is also seeing an OT for this), her speech is sometimes hard to understand, she can ride a bike, and tie her shoes, but has a hard time dribbling and catching a ball. She is a very bright little girl, but sometimes has a hard time remembering what she is trying to say. She will be in the middle of a scentence, and then will just pause and say "oh, I forgot what I was going to say." Whenever I try to get her back on track, she just gets frustrated and refuses to talk anymore.

She has always been on the honor roll in school but this year she is in middle school, and her grades are starting to drop down to C's and D's. And I think that it is because it takes her longer to write things out (which embarrasses her), so if she doesn't finish her work in time, she will just not turn it in, instead of asking the teacher for more time.

My problem is, I can't seem to find anybody who is willing to diagnose her with dyspraxia, or anything else. I have asked her doctor, who referred me to an OT, I then talked to her OT, who told me she can't diagnose her, only her doctor can. So I feel like I am kind of stuck, and I feel like we have been stuck for a very long time.

I know her teachers know something is wrong with her, but because she does great on her test, and the other work that she does complete on time, they don't think its an actual "learning disability." And if I had a diagnosis, I could go to her teachers and say "Okay, this is what she has, and this is what we need to do to help her keep on task and bring her grades up.".But because I can't get anyone to diagnose her, all they see is an extrmemly shy girl who has a hard time talking and writing, but not really knowing why.

So, my question is, how can I get her diagnosed, and once she is, will I be able to get her an IEP that can help her succeed in school?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my question! Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

-Tracy

Answer
Hello, Tracy,

Thanks so much for writing to me and for using this service at allexperts.com. I am going to try my best to help you with your question. Your question is how do obtain the proper diagnosis for dyspraxia (developmental coordination disorder) and how to obtain an IEP since you believe your child has a need for special education services or specialized instruction.

First I would like to try to answer your question about dyspraxia. It is my understanding that this may require a neuropsychologist, or neurologist, in addition to an occupational and speech language therapist. The dyspraxia conditions are contained within the DSM V, a manual that states all the various diagnoses we have as human beings. Medical doctors including psychiatrists and psychologists use this DSM V to do diagnoses. If you are not finding the right professional, keep looking for someone with expertise in this area.

Here are a couple of resources for you.
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151951.php
http://www.dyspraxiauk.com/diagnosticcriteria.php

There are many reasons that your child may be experiencing difficulty, and it is important to find out why.  

However, I want you to know that a disability leading to the development of an IEP is not the same as a diagnosis. So even if you do find a professional who can diagnose dyspraxia, a full and complete multidisciplinary evaluation will be needed for the school to identify an educational disability. I would say that the disabilities to focus on would be 'speech language impairment', 'specific learning disability', or 'other health impairment' (since dyspraxia may be considered a medical condition).

In Tennessee, here are the definitions of disabilities:

http://www.tsbtigers.org/TSB/Vision/profres/SPED%20Manual%202010%209.1.10.PDF

As you will see here in this Manual from your state, the definitions of disabilities are very clear and usually do not require a diagnosis. On Page 52, the definition of a learning disability begins. You will see that LD is a psychological processing deficit which adversely affects education, such that the student needs special education. A diagnosis of dyspraxia is not in itself a disability. I would recommend that you request, in writing, a full and complete evaluation in all areas of suspected disability to include psychological testing, academic testing, speech language and occupational therapy, at a minimum.  Based on full and complete evaluations by a qualified team of professionals, all the information gets put together to see if your child:
1. meets one of the definitions of a defined disability
2. because of that disability, there is an adverse effect on education, and
3. because of the disability and the adverse effect, your child requires special education.

If you can, I would do both: I would find a private doctor who specializes in dyspraxia, and get an evaluation there, and I would make a written referral for special education and request evaluations as stated above. Your written referral letter (there is a sample on page 144 of my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book http://www.amazon.com/Special-Needs-Advocacy-Resource-Book/dp/1593633092) needs to also say that you believe your child needs an IEP and special education.

Once you make a referral and have all the testing done by multiple disciplines, answers to your questions should begin to be revealed. In the meantime, the school should, knowing that your child is suspected of needing special education, put into place interventions and accommodations to help her in the day to day requirements of the classroom.

I truly hope this answer helps you and has addressed every part of your question. If not, however, please feel free to follow up with me. I also hope I've earned a great rating on the site and thank you if you take the time to rate my assistance.

If you ever want to have a consultation with me, email is best abc4success@msn.com.

I wish you all the best as you advocate for your exceptional child's education!  Thank you again for writing to me.  

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.

Expertise

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.

Experience

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).

Education/Credentials
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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