When to Contact A Special Education Attorney (Hint: Before the Boiling Point)

It is always upsetting to be retained after a child has endured years of stagnation due to an undetected learning disability or attention deficit disorder. Many times I will be contacted by exasperated parents because their child has begun acting out in class and the school has been asking them to pick up their child in the middle of the day. The kiddo is looking at potential suspension and disciplinary action or has become the classroom outcast. That is when parents typically reach out to a special education attorney.

Children find ways to mask and compensate for their disabilities. This learned compensation is exhausting. I would also be exhausted and frustrated if I was expected to access the curriculum while silently dealing with dyslexia or ADD. Imagine being forced to swim laps while wearing sneakers and everyone else has flippers. Is your kid exhausted at the end of the day? Maybe there is a very good reason that does not involve being “lazy” or not trying hard enough. Does this sound familiar?

Waiting for the boiling point is not the ideal route. I understand the hesitation. I understand that parents do not want to spend a ton of money when things “aren’t that bad.” My response is that you do not need to spend a ton of money and sometimes, even the most well-meaning parents don’t know how bad things really are for their child.

Like many attorneys that provide services in the public interest, special education attorneys will often give a free consultation. By reviewing standardized tests and assessments, listening to parents and reviewing existing IEPs, a special education attorney can provide clarity for parents. They can see around corners because they have, so to speak, been around this block before.

So, I ask you:

  • Is your child making progress?
    How do you measure progress? Are you relying solely upon academic grades reflected in the report card? Do you track the goals that you have crafted for your child in the IEP? Have these goals been copied and carried forward from year to year? Is your child meeting these goals? How do you know? How are you measuring progress on goals? Do you have behavioral goals? Do you need behavioral goals?
  • Are you getting phone calls to come pick up your child?
    Do you cringe when the phone rings and it is your child’s school? How many times have you had to pick up your child early this year? Are these interruptions having a negative impact on your child’s education? Do you not send your child to school when you anticipate that he/she will have a rough day?
  • Is your child exhausted at the end of the day?
    Does your child have a meltdown after coming home? Have they been saving up their frustration all day so that they can “just let it out” at home, in a safe space?
  • Are you spending countless hours on simple/straight forward homework?
    You shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t’ be spending hours preparing to do the homework either.
  • Is your child the classroom outcast?
    Does your kiddo get invited to birthday parties? Does your child have any friends? Does your child have a best friend? As children get older they become frustrated with the kiddo in class that just can’t control their emotions and outbursts. This puts a child with ADHD at a social disadvantage. It is hard for them to build and maintain friendships and they begin to hate going to school. They need help and understanding. Do you have social/behavior goals in your IEP? A one-to-one BII? Pull-out therapy? Take away space?

This is not a checklist. These are simply some rather blunt questions to consider. Are you seeing a pattern and nodding along in recognition or have you already reached the boiling point?


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