Special Education/Physical disability


My son suffers from a physical disability that causes chronic pain. It's been a nightmare for us and him. So far our district has been understanding.
I have two concerns
If he complains about pain he leaves the class. I don't know if it's always necessary. My son sometimes is whiny understAndably.
Second how much school can he miss. We have had to keep him home on bad days. So far no tutor offered.
No reprimand. He's making grades but it's hard.  I don't know what the law is or how to navigate this.

Dear Dana,

Thank you for using this service and for writing to me.  I am sorry to hear about your son's level of pain. It is important to tackle this issue now before he becomes discouraged and overwhelmed.

Home instruction may be one answer to the issue of your son's absences and may be needed for times that his disability creates a medical crisis for him.

See here some questions and answers about home instruction. Your son's medical doctor should review these criteria and make a written recommendation for home instruction due to your son's inability to attend school.

Also, if you have not considered a functional behavior assessment, that may be a good way to help sort out what to do for your son when he is in pain and needs to leave class.  Sometimes, sensory strategies, health/nurse services, and other interventions can help the team at school understand the nature of his leaving class behavior, and support it.

While 'removals' for disciplinary reasons are clearly defined in the IDEA federal law and state statutes, the amount of time missed for medical reasons is less clear. If a child is excluded from class due to suspensions or removed for up to 10 days in a year, the school is required to meet and determine if: 1-the removals by the school are directly and substantially related to the child's disability and 2-if the failure of the school to follow the IEP is the reason for the child's behavior.  This is called a manifestation determination. If the behavior is a manifestation of the child's disability, the team must revise the functional behavior assessment and behavior interventions and return the child to school.  But in your son's case, the school does not seem to be removing your son. Instead, there are medical or physical reasons that he cannot remain in the classroom.

I would suggest that home instruction is a good thing to consider. The medical doctor can help you document your son's conditions and require that your son receives tutoring for days he is unable to attend school.  

I feel that the school team needs to put into place, with your partnership, a very structured plan that analyzes his behaviors when he is in pain, or needs relief from the classroom setting.  I believe that social, emotional and physical issues are all related, and so a functional behavior assessment should definitely include a medical and physical therapy, and occupational therapy perspective.  My book, School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavior Disorders, is a resource for you. Also here is a nice site about FBA:


I hope these ideas have helped you and have answered your question. Please do not hesitate to follow up with me. I thank you again for writing to me and wish you all the best as you advocate for your exceptional child's education!  

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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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