What if a parent says no to special services? - Valley Morning Star : Autism

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What if a parent says no to special services?

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013 8:32 pm

Last week’s column talked about a child, Gina, who was having difficulty in her first grade class. Her behavior was a major issue.

It appeared that as her school work grew harder, her frustration was causing an increase in misbehavior. The school asked the parents to have their child tested to rule out possible special education needs. Gina’s parents refused. So, then what happens to a child like Gina who continues to exhibit behavior problems if her parents refuse to have the child tested?

First of all, the child will be treated exactly the way any general education children is. The school must assume that the child understands the rules and the consequences that are outlined in the school’s policies. It may be obvious to a teacher that modifications or even a change in curriculum could make Gina successful in class. However, without a special education label, that action may not be taken by the teacher. Instead, Gina continued to misbehave in the classroom.

Gradually, as Gina’s frustration grew, Gina became more aggressive. The child ended up going through “in school” suspension. The parents were called in to address the current situation. They still would not acknowledge that their daughter was at a frustration level in the classroom even though her grades showed a steady drop. Eventually, Gina was suspended for hitting a child while playing Bingo.

In the end, Gina’s parents considered home schooling their daughter and ended up moving away to a different school district. In a case like Gina, the school district must treat her like any other general education student. If the child had been tested and qualified for special assistance, Gina’s education plan could have been changed to make her more successful in the general education setting.

A child such as this most likely would benefit from a mix of special education and general education classes. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) could have been drawn up to help her remain in the general education setting with a mix of special education support. For example, an inclusion teacher might be considered during the day to help her stay up with her first grade reading.

Modifications to her class work could have been made including fewer answer choices in tests, shortened texts for reading, small groups for testing, and questions and answer choices read orally. Pull out services for some academic classes could have been considered. Gina might even require visuals or verbal cues to help her focus better. Instead, the parents chose not to have her child tested moving away instead.

Some parents do chose home schooling as an alternative education choice. In some cases, home schooling, with after school social programs, prove to be a good balance for a child with social challenges or ASD (autism spectrum disorders). Sometimes, however, a child simply needs special services to be successful in academics. In some instances, the school district may even have to step in for the interests of the child. However, those cases are usually a rarity.

Imagine if you had a child in your neighborhood that never went to school and was already elementary school age. This could be a child that is severely intellectually challenged. The parents refuse to have their son or daughter leave their home. If that occurs, most likely child protective services and the school district will become advocates for the child.

Though it is highly unusual, a school district, through due process, can make sure that a child is receiving the educational opportunities that are a part of his rights, even if the parents refuse. That is a rarity. Usually, districts will work with parents over time to provide for the needs of the child. In the case of a child like Gina, usually the behavior will lead to the realization that the child needs additional assistance.

More often than not, parents who have taken the step to get testing for their child and who stay involved in their child’s education, will see continued academic growth. Behavior will usually improve when the academics are tailored to a child’s specific needs.

In Gina’s case, she would most likely do well with shortened texts when she reads. Less answer choices during testing from four to three can really make a difference in a child’s frustration level. Sometimes having questions and answer choices read out loud can help a child focus better on the material she reads. These can be small simple changes that make all the difference for a child struggling in her academic setting. Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher, can be contacted at

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