The psychologist I talked to last year advised against getting an Independent Evaluation or going beyond that (keep in mind, this is the same guy who told me, "medical is medical, educational is educational." and that I was wasting my time (notice (a)(4) in that link) looking for medical diagnoses to push the educational) because he said it would lock it in to where the school didn't have to do anything at all while all of that was going on. Big shock, considering "medical is medical, educational is educational," that's not exactly accurate. It's called the stay put provision. Pretty much, if he has an IEP, he keeps what he's got during the hearing process. If he doesn't have an IEP, nothing changes while we get an Independent Evaluation- he never had one to begin with, so what is there to freeze? 0-0=? or 0 holding at 0=? No risk.
Not that I want things to go there, but I need to have what I need to get that far. You can never go wrong in being too prepared.
(side note: don't just take what I say as God's honest truth. I'm not a lawyer, I'm a high school dropout who went on to the uber-glamorous life of being a stay at home mom with a short stint of this and that in between. I wipe snotty noses, dirty bottoms, messy hands, and clean shit off of walls for a "living"- I'll tell you what I found, you go read it for yourself.)
Ok, so, I'm starting out preparing for the Due Process Hearing. There are many steps before you get to that point but it's very important to make those very-well-documented-steps. Last year, I made the mistake of asking for evaluation in person the first time- make sure all of your requests are formal written requests- pics or it never happened. My second attempt was an e-mail and that was followed up with a hard copy delivered to the secretary in the elementary office. That turned out well, *sarcasm.* Two staff members I had issues with over things I requested and they didn't want to deliver told me that the paperwork I turned in could not be found. Is that allowed? No. but it is what it is and I didn't push too hard because people make mistakes, you know. You have to understand that people are people. Imperfect. Human. Wholeheartedly trust your team, they have your child's best interest at heart, it's not like they would purposely do anything to deprive your child of a Free Appropriate Public Education... no matter how expensive it is or how much extra work it takes. *snort* What's that saying about good intentions paving the way to hell? Not this time. This time I'm creating a paper trail.
Wrightslaw says to deliver your formal written request to the secretary, make notes, etc... They have really good points. You can read about delivering your formal written request here. My advice is to follow their advice... unlike me. You know I'm too hard headed to follow good advice from professionals until I fail in every way possible my way ;) I wrote my letters. You can find very nice sample letters, fact sheets, and forms here. I made copies of all evaluations. I wrote a request for evaluation, I wrote a request for a copy of Goofy's cumulative education record and created a packet for each invited person. I wrote an e-mail request for a meeting with the SSD area coordinator at his earliest convenience (it's been a good while since I saw that man. I do enjoy his company.) to discuss Goofy's academic performance, and available options to help him receive meaningful educational benefit from classroom instruction and to be sure that he has the services and accommodations he needs to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education... and invited the school psychologist (I like him, too.), the principal (lovely woman), the counselor (I'm still sore over the whole dyslexia thing... and the part where she mistakenly thought I couldn't submit another request for evaluation), and the teacher (who, for being new, is surprisingly high on my list of likable and trusted people.). In the meeting, we can discuss the possibility of evaluating the Goofy One for an IEP in a way that they each get a copy of my request with no chance of it- or the evaluations- being lost. *team work*
Look at the IEP Success Kit by the Special Education Advisor. There are so many wonderful things in here to create your own IEP Binder. To be honest, I love the Special Education Advisor with a passion, I think they are wonderful in everything they do... but I prefer the wording in MPACT's sample letters, which I linked above. The only one I saw in the IEP Success Kit that I don't remember seeing in MPACT is the Requesting Assessments Prior to IEP Meeting. and possibly the Notice of Tape Recording IEP Meeting. but MPACT also has letters the IEP Kit doesn't.
The other thing that's changed this year is me. I can't keep my heart from being invested in this, he's my son and I know first hand what happens without intervention, without meeting his needs, without helping him learn. Helpguide.org has a great article on adult ADD/ADHD. They list wide-reaching effects of untreated ADHD as:
- Physical and mental health problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can contribute to a variety of health problems, including compulsive eating, substance abuse, anxiety, chronic stress and tension, and low self-esteem. You may also run into trouble due to neglecting important check-ups, skipping doctor appointments, ignoring medical instructions, and forgetting to take vital medications.
- Work and financial difficulties. Adults with ADD/ADHD often experience career difficulties and feel a strong sense of underachievement. You may have trouble keeping a job, following corporate rules, meeting deadlines, and sticking to a 9-to-5 routine. Managing finances may also be a problem: you may struggle with unpaid bills, lost paperwork, late fees, or debt due to impulsive spending.
- Relationship problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can put a strain on your work, love, and family relationships. You may be fed up with constant nagging from loved ones to tidy up, listen more closely, or get organized. Those close to you, on the other hand, may feel hurt and resentful over your perceived “irresponsibility” or “insensitivity.”
Look familiar? When you talk teenagers, you're looking at a high risk of dropping out when they can't do the school work, with the social difficulties, with the inability to keep up, with the feeling of inadequacy that comes with all of those. It's not that they are stupid, it's that they just can't cut it in the classroom. I can't allow that to happen.
Walter has ADHD but with his meds, his ADHD doesn't interfere with his academic performance. Walter is fine. He has plans, he has goals, he has the support he needs, he has confidence in his abilities, he's not just floating through life unfocused and unaware. He is not struggling in school (except math, and he's getting tutoring for that). He does not need a 504 or an IEP.
Goofy is on medication, and the medication does help, I've made sure this teacher sees the difference. Last year the teacher and the nurse pushed to have Goofy take his medication at school, I refused. This year Goofy takes his meds at home except for the 2 days per month that he has to use the last of his pills in the nurse's office- the pills that we agreed should be kept at school for just in case in exchange for him taking his meds at home. The teacher has noticed the difference and it's documented in her report to the evaluator at UMSL. The Goofy Child's medication is working but it's not enough. He needs help in school and that brings us to the difference...
I am determined. At this point, I'm not furious, I'm not on the edges of insanity (*cough*yet*cough*), I'm just angry enough to be seriously motivated and determined enough to go to any lengths necessary to get this child what he needs to have a free appropriate public education whether it's FAPE under IDEA or FAPE under section 504. I also understand that this isn't the end of it. It's very important but it's not now or nothing.
And, that's where we're at right now. I'm hoping we can have the meeting to discuss evaluation before Christmas break, then I have several weeks of free time before the ball starts rolling.