IEP Step 1: Document the Warning Signs
I’m worried about my child. I suspect he has ADHD, and he is doing poorly in school. What should I do to help him get academic accommodations and when should I do it?
Many children, with and without diagnosed ADHD or LD, struggle in school at some point. This may be a temporary setback; your child may fall behind in reading or math, but catch up when you spend extra time working with her. But when you see a pattern of academic struggles or a steady stream of notes sent home from teachers, you should jump into action.
Be a Record Keeper
When your child begins to struggle with classwork and homework, or tells you that he hates school, hold on to all quizzes, tests, report cards, homework examples, letters home from teachers, a diagnosis from a professional, and observations that you made. You will need all of these when you apply for accommodations. Organize the documents according to this plan:
1. Make copies of all correspondence and e-mails with teachers, doctors, and school officials, so that you have a paper trail.
2. Keep a notebook to be used only for health and education information concerning your child. Use it to take notes during meetings with doctors, teachers, and other professionals. Jot down any questions that occur to you in between meetings, so you don’t forget to ask them.
3. Keep track of your child’s grades — tests, homework, and classwork — as well as communications from your child’s teacher.
4. Place everything in one big file.
This paper chase may seem laborious, but it is important. A U.S. Supreme Court decision underscored the importance of good recordkeeping. The Court ruled that, in a due process hearing, the legal burden of proving that a plan fails to meet a child’s needs falls on the parents. It’s imperative to document your child’s difficulties, to be assertive about receiving progress reports, and to push for changes to the IEP as the need arises.