Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Should Parents who have been Laid Off from Work Tell their Children with ADHD that they are not Working?

Parents have been asking me lately as to whether or not they should tell their child with ADHD that they have been laid off from work. There are so many people out of work now, that these questions become very important. Therefore, I ask the parents the following:

 “Would you like your child with ADHD to know that you are not working now?” What might the impact be for your child if you do not tell him as compared to the impact for your child if you do tell him?

Some people think that because children with ADHD are distractible, that they do not notice changes in their environment. This is arguably true. However, if your child does not specifically notice the changes, but feels in a general way that something is different, he might begin to feel anxious, and not know the reason that he is feeling that way.

That anxiety might arguably have more of a negative impact on your child with ADHD than knowing that you are not currently working. The sense that he feels that something at home is different, but he does not know how or why is a very unsettling feeling.

Therefore, telling your child the truth about the fact that you are not working at the moment might be a healthier path for your child with ADHD, because he will link up the feeling that something is different in your home with the fact that you are not working. His feeling that something is different at home will be validated with an actual reason for that difference.

You will in all likelihood have to explain to him about the changes in our economy, according to his age and developmental level, of course. His response will be directly associated with how you present the fact that you are not working at the moment. It would a good idea to discuss the fact that you are not working right now as a temporary situation that is not only typically seen across the country, but more importantly, will remedy itself when the economy gets better.

He will watch your response, so therefore, the less concerned that you appear to be, the less he will worry. That being said, he needs to understand that the failing economy is a serious situation for the country, but one that has occurred before and then rebounded.

What do you think?

Here is the Link to the Bullying Article in Attention Magazine

Just in case you had difficulty reading the article on bullying that I just posted, due to the overlap of the picture of my book, here is the link:

What are your thoughts?

The Bully Cycle and ADHD (courtesy of CHADD: Attention Magazine)

The Bully Cycle and ADHD

by Joan Teach, PhD
BULLYING HAS BECOME A CRISIS in this country and across the world. It is listed as the number one cause of school absenteeism in the United States, and is closely linked to teen depression and suicide. In a Harvard study of high school students, ninety-six percent reported having been bullied at least once in their lives, eighty-five percent reported witnessing bullying, and forty-six percent indicated that they refused to go to extracurricular activities because the bullies are there. Sadly, two percent of their classmates committed suicide after consistent bullying.

Other studies report that 282,000 students are physically attacked in our secondary schools each month. It is a sad reflection to learn that at least one event of bullying occurs every seven minutes. It is appalling to note that adults intervene in only four percent of these cases. Peers help eleven
percent of the time, leaving eighty-five percent of the victims on their own with no assistance.

We know that children and adolescents with ADHD are often targeted by bullies and may later turn around and become the bully. Children play many roles in the bullying cycle. Sorting out each role can be difficult, as many of the bullying episodes are carefully carried out behind your back and out of the sight of any adult. What interventions can change this vicious cycle?

Defining bullying

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior that is intentional, hurtful or threatening, and persistent. This aggression can be physical or psychological, and it is repeated. There is an imbalance of strength, allowing one individual power and dominance over the other.

Where is the line between friendly teasing and bullying? The bully intends to harm, intends to create fear, and intends to keep repeating the behavior. He or she is delighted with the power of intimidating another lesser-powered youngster. The key words here are intends harm and delights in control by power.

When the situation is one that involves teasing, both youngsters come to the situation with the same power or sense of ability. They banter about an issue and laugh at the outcome.
When the abuse becomes willful, the situation changes into bullying. Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It leaves the victim feeling hurt, frightened, threatened, left out on purpose. There is a line between rough play and bullying when the one with the power sets out to hurt the other. It is a power play. Hitting, teasing, taunting, spreading rumors, gossiping, stealing, excluding, and intending to harm are all means of exercising power. When the activity is repeated and the thrill of the power is accelerated, the attacker is a bully on a quest.

Bullies seldom own up to their behavior. They make excuses to adults for what happened. They play innocent, insisting that it was an accident. They explain that they had no idea that the victim wasn’t having fun, or felt embarrassed, intimated, or hurt.

Bullies target their victims. They want power, so they look for and target students who are smaller, younger, or less adept. They seek out those who exude a lack of self-confidence. The shy child, the one with slowed speech, someone who walks awkwardly, wears glasses, keeps to himself or herself—all these children unfortunately become prey.

Students with ADHD are often targeted due to their acting-out behaviors. Sometimes they are cultivated as a friend and then attacked. Their impulsivity is seen as vulnerability; the bully taunts until the child with ADHD retaliates, and then the bully retreats so the child with ADHD is caught in the act and takes the brunt of punishment. After frequent attacks, the child with ADHD often turns and becomes the bully, reveling in the power of finally being in control. The cycle is vicious and needs to be diffused and understood.

Who is the bully?

Many people associate the bully with a ruffian from the wrong side of the tracks, a child from a poor family who has a history of violent behavior. This may be true, but not always. It is true that boys tend to be more physical, obvious, and direct in their tactics. Girls on the other hand tend to be more verbal and secretive, and enlist others to help do their dirty work.
Bullies come from all walks of life. Some are the most popular leaders of the schools. Some are those who are aggressive and want more. Some are driven by impulsive behavior and find ways to gain recognition, although through the wrong means.

Children with ADHD are recorded as being four times more prone to bully. We must examine each case, however, to determine how the bully process emerged. We are not making excuses, just trying to see the process of this behavioral development. Those with learning differences are more likely to be both the victim and the bully as they try to defend themselves and retaliate. Thirty percent of children with learning differences find they are victims of peer rejection, and therefore are vulnerable targets.

Bullying behavior frequently emerges from victims who have had enough. The child who is being picked begins to have violent feelings. Retaliation at all cost becomes his or her new mantra. Witnessing physical abuse at home or being abused leads to lashing out at others. The power gained by bullying creates a rush that develops into a need for more power.


The National Crime Prevention Council reports that more than forty-two percent of teens with Internet access say they have been bullied online. Twenty-one percent reported receiving messages that were threatening. Yes, messaging is a way of life, but fifty-eight percent of teens admit to sending mean and threatening responses to one another. Of course, the “don’t-tell-an-adult” rule is alive and well. So, parents and teachers, you are purposely kept out of the loop.

Our ability to communicate instantly and respond in seconds makes the instant-messaging world a ripe field for attack, smear, and harassment. Unfortunately, anything in print is taken as gospel truth, so rumors can become rampant. Many times the cyberbullying victim is the last to know the ugliness written about him or her.

Attacks through technology come in two guises—direct attacks and attack by proxy. Direct is as it sounds, a frontal-attack text harassment, perhaps created through a blog or website. It is easy to slander by sending pictures, broadcasting internet polls or surveys, creating malicious codes, porn, impersonation. Intimidation by proxy involves getting someone else to do your dirty work. This includes, but is not limited to, passing slander between cyber buddies for an attack.

For example, a bully arranges a group attack by sending a widespread message to harass a student at lunch by ignoring her, bumping into her, and spilling food on her. This message is sent to many students and results in an unexpected, underhanded unstoppable catastrophe. Nowadays, if they see students ganging up on someone, teachers or other adults soon suspect cyberbullying.

Cyber messages may be just rude or vicious and are often written without truth. Passwords can be hacked, leaving the bully an open field to impersonate their victim. The reader has no idea the message was a fraud and the perpetrator cannot be tracked. There is no limit to the damage a true cyber bully can produce.

What are the consequences of bullying?

Victims of bullying are at risk for social, emotional, and psychiatric problems that may persist into adulthood. They tend to internalize their problems and are faced with bouts of depression. They feel insecure, cry easily, and are anxious and withdrawn, as well as feeling weak and submissive. Being unhappy leads to withdrawing from friends. Victims stop participating in extracurricular activities and feel unsafe in school. Often their grades drop, creating another issue that compounds their problem.

The bully loses his sense of life’s balance and is often disruptive, hyperactive, aggressive, and depressed. Needing the feel of power she develops social anxiety, has difficulty concentrating, is highly impulsive, and becomes more distracted, inattentive, hyperactive, and socially maladjusted.

Both the victim and the bully experience an emotional interference and often have symptoms of reading and writing problems. If a learning difference exists, these symptoms are compounded. These students often experience elevated anxiety and have a greater risk of dropping out of school. The stigma of the bully cycle increases the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse. Adolescents displaying these behaviors are four times more likely to be convicted of a crime by age twenty-four. There is no winner in bullying.

Why victims don’t just stand up for themselves

Remember, the bullying cycle is a situation of power. Victims want to please. They frequently believe that what has happened to them is really their fault. They have been told to behave, and try to. Their parents and their schools forbid fighting, and they try not to.

If the victim does fight back, the bully is savvy enough to back away, leaving the victim to take the blame for the altercation. The victim is told to ignore the bully, but the bully knows from the look of fright in the victim’s eyes that he or she has won. The more scared the expression, the stronger the taunt, leading to greater bully power. Often the abuse accelerates to a level of danger. The victim’s safety is in jeopardy and there is the possibility of a tragic outcome.

How does one stand up to a bully?

We’ve already determined that running from the bully is not the answer. Changing schools is not the answer. Schools must be safe environments where bullying ceases. A different school may only shift the child’s vulnerability to the next bully. Instead, let’s give our children survivor tools. But how?

Change the victim mindset. First of all, the vulnerable child needs to get over the idea that he or she should be a victim. He or she did not create this abuse, and it is not his or her fault. Sensitive children feel that they caused the abuse and that no one can come to save them and make it right. Some become so frustrated that they react just as the bully expected. This makes them doubly vulnerable. Victims are not to suffer in silence and be pounded into submission. And they must not feel they can ignore the taunts and make the bully go away! That gives the bully the message that he or she has won.

Teach children to have an “I can and I will” attitude. One of the best preventive interventions is body language. Show children how to create an assertive stance, and help them practice. Teachers can also make this into a classroom activity. Pride in self will support a child for a lifetime. Rehearse until the child can produce a look of confidence, by learning to:
look the bully directly in the eyes.
hold his or her head high.
maintain eye contact and speak clearly.
make sure of his or her movements.
make his or her movements crisp and sure.
Parents and teachers can talk to children about the importance of personal hygiene and looking well put-together. Children and adolescents may be at the sloppy age and careless about their appearance, but encourage them that a change in appearance may be a first line of defense against being attacked.

Respond with appropriate assertive comeback lines in vulnerable situations. Help children learn to use such statements wisely, so they do not backfire. (See the sidebar.)

Some children with ADHD are not readily aware of social situations and need direct instructions for those times when they just don’t get what is happening. They need to learn that their whole presence is their best defense. Teach them to:
remain cool at all cost.
avoid the temptation to throw in the next barb and foil with the next sword.
use a comeback line instead, one that is brief and to the point, giving the message that the bully did not get to them.
look the bully in the eye.
have a poker face that shows no anger. Having hurt or anger on your face makes you vulnerable. Practice making a blank face in front of a mirror, a poker face that does not reveal any of your feelings.
avoid trading insults.

Put STOP into action. Once children have developed these vital assertiveness skills, teach them to use the STOP method to put their skills into action.
Begin by looking your attacker Straight into his or her eyes. Hold your head high and stand with confidence, even if you are shaking.
Next, be sure no emotion shows on your Totally poker face. Remember showing emotions makes you vulnerable.
With a strong voice state your Opinion with your comeback statement.
Now that you have shown your strength, Pretend the bully does not exist. Totally ignore her.
See the sidebar for tips to help you remember the STOP method of bullyproofing.
What about the “bystanders”?

We’ve talked about the bully and the victim, but we have ignored the other players in this saga, the witnesses.

Seldom does a bullying event occur without witnesses. The bully needs someone to see how powerful she is and to verify her existence. She wants a following, to be a hero, so someone must see and tell. However, these witnesses, or bystanders, come in many “flavors”:
First there is the vanilla bystander. This youngster watches and sees, but does nothing. He is just there.
Then there is the strawberry witness who continues the harassment, encouraging and cheering on the taunting.
Next is the neapolitan, who takes on the flavor of the most popular. This bystander is afraid of making his own decision or taking a stand. He is unable to be anything but what someone else tells him to be or do.
Then comes the blueberry witness. This bystander comes waving a flag for the victim. She boos the bully and sides with the victim. This show of force rolls over the bully, diffusing the strength of power that the bully is fighting for.

Parents, teachers, and other adults need to encourage the role of the blueberry witness. We need children and adolescents to feel empowered by befriending the victim. We need to assist them in identifying the roles of bully, victim, and bystander. We need to give each child a right to be safe and secure. We need to instruct and encourage children to support one another. We need to make it acceptable to report bullying as inappropriate behavior. Developing a safe environment, we need to encourage the loners to stay on the more traveled paths, to encourage them to have someone with them, especially the supportive blueberry variety. Being safe is to be less vulnerable.

Is your child’s school truly involved?

As we know, a lot of bullying happens in or around school property and involves student-to-student interaction. Many schools have a no-bullying policy and really want to enforce it. Often action is impossible, as teachers do not witness the events, students have difficulty relaying what happened, and many denials and twistings of facts occur. Schools that make a difference use a preventive approach.

Psychologist Dan Olweus studied the school community and created the most impressive bullying prevention program to date, in which changing bystander behavior is the key. (See the article in the December 2009 Attention, and visit the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program website.) Students discuss and define bullying. They are encouraged to make a commitment to speak up when they witness a bullying event and to befriend and stand up for the victim. They are helped to express their feelings and to speak openly and candidly through role-play and interactive activities. When the whole community works together, a difference can be made.

Assess the program that is in place in the school your child attends, or if you’re a teacher, the school where you teach. What interventions have been put into action? What more can you do?

Remember, there is a positive message for us all:
The student who bullies and who receives help can become aware of his or her behavior and change his or her focus on life. Of course, the earlier the intervention begins, the better.
The student who is bullied can be empowered to assert himself or herself, move beyond the attacker, and heal.
Bystander witnesses can learn to become empowered to care and stand up against bullying.

We can change the bullying cycle if we all work together.

Comeback lines are not return insults, but can help increase the vulnerable child’s confidence—which discourages the bully. Encourage children to think carefully as to when these comeback lines may be appropriate, and to practice them with an adult before using them.

Oh, get a life.
How does it feel to be this mean?
Are you talking to me?
You’re wasting your breath.
If you say so, okay.
I hear you, but I don’t care.
Are you finished?
Are you satisfied?
I hope your nasty attitude makes you feel better.
I couldn't care less.
Keep talking. I’m not listening!
Congratulations for being the King of Putdowns.
Are you bored yet?
You should be making me feel bad, but you are not worth it.
I should report your behavior, but you’re not worth it.
Mission accomplished, so move on.
You are really just wasting my time.


Here is a chart to help you remember the STOP method:

Straight into the bully’s eyes
Total poker face
Opinion—state your comeback
Pretend he is not there—total ignoring

Do you know the signs your child is being bullied? Or that your child may be bullying others? Click here for more information on anti-bullying resources and programs.

An educational consultant based in the Atlanta area, Joan Teach, PhD, is an adjunct professor at Kennesaw State University and president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia. She served as director of the Lullwater School from 1979 to 2006. Teach initiated one of the first CHADD groups in her state and later served on CHADD’s national board of directors. With a passion for designing games and simulations as unique learning interventions, she has developed many strategies to assist children and adults with ADHD in understanding their own learning styles. Read her CHADD blog, “ADHD and School Success,” at

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Attention magazine. Copyright © 2010 by Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights reserved.

© 2011 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All


© 2011 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All


© 2011 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All

Friday, September 16, 2011

Do Children or Teenagers with ADHD who have been Teased or Bullied have Empathy for other Children who have been Teased or Bullied?

You may or may not have found lack of empathy on a list of symptoms that characterize children and/or teenagers with ADHD. However, surprisingly, I have found that oftentimes, that that is arguably the case.

I have found that children and/or teenagers who have experienced social rejection may not feel empathy for those who are also struggling socially. I know that this sounds strange and even upsetting.  Amanda, (faux name) a ten year old girl with whom I work, plays occasionally with two children in her neighborhood, but does not have what I would consider “real” friends. She desperately wants to have many friends. Amanda had been bullied for years before she began to work with me. Thank goodness, she has put the lessons into practice that I have taught her, because she has not been bullied in quite some time.

Amanda told me that she observed a boy, Jack, (faux) who was in her class, annoy some of his peers by talking excessively, as well as standing very close to them while he was talking. Because of this behavior, as well as other similar behaviors, the other children constantly mocked and rejected Jack. Consequently, I asked Amanda if she felt badly for Jack that he was being teased and bullied. She said “No.” “He is so annoying, so he deserves what he gets.”

Amanda’s comment stunned me. Although she had been teased and bullied himself, for some reason, she did not feel badly that Jack was going through a similar experience. Amanda was bullied for reasons that were very complex and difficult to pinpoint. However, her desperate need to make friends might have been interpreted as her being vulnerable. She certainly had not exhibited similar behaviors as had Jack, but instead, was very quiet, often walking with her head down.

The cause of Amanda’s bullying, arguably, was her vulnerability. Children observed that she was quiet and did not interact with them, and interpreted her behavior as showing weakness. Therefore, she was a good target for their bullying. Amanda spoke of having experienced the rejection, the humiliation, the pain and the sadness that had all been associated with being bullied.

That being said, the important point here is that one would expect that those who had experienced being bullied would share similar feelings. Therefore, would it not make sense that Amanda would feel badly for Jack, who was experiencing similar feelings upon being bullied as had Amanda?

 According to Amanda, her situation and Jack’s situation were very different.  She said that she could not possibly feel badly for Jack because it was his fault that he had been so annoying! I explained to Amanda that no one has the right to bully or tease anyone else, no matter how they were behaving.  I also explained to her that in my opinion, Jack did not want to exhibit behaviors that annoyed his peers. I also suggested that perhaps Jack had other issues in his life that made him behave in a desperate manner in order to make friends.

In my mind, Amanda arguably might have behaved in a vulnerable way because she desperately wanted to have friends, as well. Amanda still insisted, however, that “He is annoying and smells and deserves everything he gets.”

Has anyone experienced their child with ADHD or their student with ADHD NOT empathizing with others? Why is this issue so important?  We will talk about the importance of children with ADHD understanding both their feelings as well as other children’s feelings tomorrow.

Let me know your thoughts…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Provoke a Conversation with a Child and/or a Teenager with ADHD: Try these Resources

These jars of cards provoke conversations about organization, choices, manners and questions specifically for girls. They may be found at www.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another Visual?

I received a positive response to my pool visual, so here is another visual. This one is a beautiful, shocking pink, or fuscia (not sure!) Hibiscus.

Do any of your children or teenagers love flowers? This time, they could make a scrapbook of different flowers that they like and/or download those pictures onto a CD.  The moment that they notice their symptoms, they could go immediately to their pictures and look at them, as a way to refocus.

What do you think?

Is there One Right Age to Give a Child/Teenager with ADHD a Cell Phone? What does having a Cell Phone Teach them?

A query was posed yesterday by @SueScheff on Twitter as to whether or not there is a right age for a teenager to get a cell phone. I believe that there is no right age. Each child is unique and what may be a reasonable idea for one 13 year old might not be a practical idea for another 13 year old. However, that same idea might be acceptable for an 11 year old. The possible lessons that having a cell phone would teach is arguably a more important issue than determining the right age to give a child a cell phone, especially a teenager with ADHD.

Let us talk about the reasons that parents might get a child or a teenager a cell phone, especially one with ADHD. What kind of skills might a child or a teenager with ADHD learn by having a cell phone? Perhaps having a cell phone would teach responsibility. If having a cell phone teaches responsibility, what exactly would that entail?

Those with ADHD oftentimes forget where they place their possessions. In the case of a cell phone, this is a paramount concern, because in addition to a cell phone being such a private possession, which includes any pictures that are taken as well as copies of text messages, it is vital to communicating with a child’s parents. Therefore, children and/or teenagers with ADHD must be taught specific measures that will ensure that they know where their cell phone is at all times. (Look for suggestions in tomorrow’s blog concerning helping teenagers with ADHD to remember where to put their cell phones.)

In addition to teaching responsibility, having a cell phone might help a child to understand the specifics of how much certain things cost, i.e., the monthly cell phone costs, including the amount of money that is charged for operating the phone as well as text messaging. The value of money is a life-long lesson that can be practically taught upon getting a child a cell phone.

Let’s talk: What is your opinion as to whether or not there is a right age for a child or a teenager with ADHD to have a cell phone, and more importantly, why?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"How to Prepare for your Next IEP Meeting" Accessed from

This article comes from

Take a look:

How to Prepare for your Next IEP Meeting

Life is hectic when raising a special needs child.  Parents are constantly dealing with therapies, medical appointments, administering medicine, and life in general.  To make matters worse parents are telling me they keep hearing in IEP meetings from school district personnel, “If you don’t like our offer take us to due process”.  This makes it even more important to be prepared for your next meeting.  This article will help you truly prepare for the next IEP meeting.
Other helpful IEP pages to review after reviewing this article include IEP Form and IEP Example

90 days prior to your next annual IEP meeting 

Reread last year’s IEP paying close attention to needs, present levels of performance, accommodations/modifications, goals and services.  If you think your child has a new suspected area of disability or you need an update on skill levels from a prior disability this is the time to request a new special education assessment.   The school district will usually only assess once every three years for the triennial IEP unless requested by the parent to be done annually.  Make sure the request for assessment is made in a letter that you hand to the school personally.  Remember that all written and verbal communication should be professional in tone and content.  Ask a friend to read the letter to make sure it is not emotional or hostile.
Go on your State’s Department of Education website and download the State’s grade level standards for each subject.  Familiarize yourself with the grade level standards your child will be expected to know in the current grade.  Create a list of standards for each subject that your child needs help in.

Go on your school district’s website and download your school district’s policies and procedures on Special Education.  If it is not online write a letter requesting the document.  Review the document since some school district personnel don’t understand their own policies or worse, deliberately give you misleading information.

Start reviewing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and your state’s Special Education laws.  Some States have tighter special education regulations than the federal law and it is important to know the differences.  The State law can’t give less protections then the federal law but it is allowed to give more protections.

75 days prior to your next annual IEP meeting 

By now you should have received an assessment plan from your school based on the assessment request letter you sent.  If you have not, send a friendly follow up letter since the school is required to send you an assessment plan within 15 days of your request.  If you have, review the assessment plan and make sure you agree with all of the assessments to be administered.  If you agree, sign and return the assessment plan giving your approval for assessment.  Attach a letter to the assessment plan requesting copies of all assessments 4 or 5 days prior to the IEP meeting so you have time to review them before the meeting and be an effective member of the IEP team.

If you have not already done this organize all of your IEP’s, assessments, report cards, State achievement tests, communication, and complaints in one large three ring notebook.  Make sure you bring this IEP notebook with you to every IEP meeting.

If you want to include private assessments to be considered by the school at the next IEP meeting, schedule them at this time.  Make sure your private assessor knows when they need to get the assessment done by.

60 days prior to your next annual IEP meeting 

Make sure you have signed and returned the assessment plan since the school is allowed 60 days to perform the assessment.

Review all of the materials you have now put together in the IEP notebook.  Start writing down all of your parental concerns, ongoing needs of your child (both academic and non-academic), and whether you feel the current IEP goals have been meet.  Send a letter requesting the logs of all services your child was to receive during the prior year.  If they have missed hours you can ask for both make up hours and compensatory hours be added to next year’s IEP.

Decide who you want to bring with you to the IEP meeting.  Don’t go alone.  If you don’t have an Advocate, bring your spouse, a friend or other private special education expert.  Discuss the upcoming IEP with this person and make sure they are available to attend.

30 days prior to your next annual IEP meeting 

You should have received an IEP meeting notice by this point.  The school is obligated to come up with a mutually agreeable time and place for the IEP meeting, so don’t worry if the first date doesn’t fit your schedule.  Figure out acceptable dates conferring with whoever you are bringing with you to the meeting.  Send a letter to the school offering three or four alternative dates that fit your schedule.   Review who is attending from the District and figure out if the right people will be in the room.  If you think additional team members are needed invite them at this time.  Include on the IEP team meeting notice the names of everyone you will be bringing to the meeting.  Also, if you want to tape record the meeting this is a good time to give the school notice.  You will need to check you State law regarding audio recording IEP’s.  For instance, the State of California requires 24 hours notice to audio record.

Create a letter at this time listing all of your parental concerns.  Ask to have a pre-conference call with your case manager to discuss your concerns and to hear what the school might be thinking.  These calls save a lot of time and energy at the IEP meeting since neither side feels like they got blind-sided.  Often emotions flare up because the other side did not expect what occurred at the meeting.  This can be tempered by having off the record conversations prior to the meeting.

15 days prior to your next annual IEP meeting

Deliver the private assessments to the school to be considered at the IEP meeting and remind them you have requested copies of their assessments prior to the meeting.

By now you should have all of your child’s service logs.  If hours have been missed send a letter requesting adding the missed hours to the IEP meeting agenda.

Talk with your child’s teachers and therapists and get a sense of what they are thinking.  What has been working and what hasn’t been working.  Information is the key to being prepared so the more information you can get the better prepared you will be.  Also, start reviewing whether all of your child’s accommodations or modifications have been followed.

Start putting together a list of requests you want to ask for at the meeting.  Always formally request all actions.  This will trigger Prior Written Notice for the District.  It’s easy to say No at a meeting when you don’t have to explain why in writing.

48 hours prior to your next annual IEP meeting

You should have copies of the school’s assessments by this point.  If not, call and ask when you will receive them.  If they will not provide them send a follow up letter stating that since your request to receive assessments prior to the meeting was denied it is impeding your parental rights to be a full member of the IEP team.

If you have the school’s assessments review them.  Finish your list of formal requests for services, goals, needs, and placements.  Send a letter to the school with the list of requests and ask for Prior Written Notice to be given on all requests they reject.  If you feel the assessments are not proper be prepared to ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense.

At IEP meeting 

Make sure you bring your child’s IEP notebook you have created.  Remember to stay professional and try and keep emotions to a minimum.  Tell the person you brought with you to reign you in if they feel you are getting to emotional.

Bring a copy of your formal requests and parental concerns to the meeting and hand them another copy in the meeting.  Remind them you would like to add your requests and parental concerns to the meeting agenda.
Try to listen to the school personnel.  Sometimes what you think you want is different from what your child really needs.  Ask the person you brought for their unbiased opinion based on the discussion that took place.  Have some of your opinions changed based on the conversation?  That’s okay, sometimes they should.  Make sure you feel comfortable that everything on your agenda has been covered in the meeting.
Do not sign the IEP at the meeting.  Take it home to review.

At home after the IEP meeting 

Review the IEP again making sure needs, present level of performance, goals, services and placement have all been covered appropriately.  If they have, great, sign the IEP and return it.  If not, decide what is missing and create a follow up letter to attach to the IEP.

Don’t worry if the school told you to file for Due Process if you disagree.  If the school is trying to reduce services or change placement, if you disagree your child will be under a Stay Put until the disagreement is worked out.  This means the school district must maintain the current educational placement with no reduction in services pending any proceedings such as due process of formal mediation.  If the disagreement is about eligibility, new services or time and frequency of services you should request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at public expense.   Many times this is not an option that is outlined on the school district's IEP form.  Feel free to write this in and state that you do not feel it is appropriate to proceed to any dispute resolution methodology until after the IEE is performed.  Make sure you sign the IEP form noting your disagreements with a comment to see the attached follow up letter.  Attach the follow up letter with all of your remaining concerns, a reminder that you’re waiting for Prior Written Notice on all of your formal requests they rejected and the request for the IEE. 

If the District denies your IEE request they must take you to Due Process and explain to the hearing officer why their assessments were accurate.  If the District approves your request make sure whoever you get to do the assessment is qualified and will give recommendations that include time and frequency of services.
The IEE results are not binding but will either validate your concerns or show you that the school district’s offer was appropriate.  Between your requests for an IEE and Prior Written Notice your case will most likely be handed to a new case manager at the District that has more authority to negotiate.  While all case managers are supposed to have authority to approve whatever is necessary for the child, in practicality that is not the case.

If the IEE validates your concerns often times everything will be worked out at the IEP meeting to discuss the results, especially if there is a new case manager.  If the school still won’t budge the IEE results are admissible in a Due Process Complaint.  At this point I would file a complaint based on the IEE results.  Based on the United States Department of Education statistics a high percentage of due process complaints are worked out in a resolution session or formal mediation and never get in front of a hearing officer.


As you can see it is not easy to prepare for an IEP meeting.  If you do not feel comfortable going through this process talk with an experienced Advocate or Attorney to help you.  Otherwise if you do your research and use the information you collect to your advantage a proper resolution can normally be worked out.

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