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Appealing a special education denial

Posted Mar 17 2009 4:26am
As I posted last Thursday, our special education department rejected Luke for an IEP by making the statement that his disability/impairment does not have "an adverse effect on educational performance." They made this claim because he scored in the high average range on the IQ tests. An IQ test is not a measure of performance.

Following is the letter I sent to our Local Education Agency's Exceptional Children Director this morning. It sums up why I have chosen to appeal.

Ms. [director],

I am looking for information on how to begin the appeal process for special education services. I found your contact info in the front of the Procedural Safeguards: Handbook on Parent’s Rights I was given by the school.

My son, Luke, is a 1st grade student at [our] Elementary. He was diagnosed with ADHD Nov., 2008 and also found to have fine motor skills and handwriting impairment by Dr. Sandler at the Olson Huff Center and an Occupational Therapist that evaluated him at Huff Center Therapies. The special ed department has been testing him at my request since before his diagnosis.

On Thursday, 3/5/2008, I was invited to a meeting with his IEP team to discuss the test results where I was informed that his IQ test placed him at high average and, therefore, he does not need “specially designed instruction.” On the eligibility worksheet it asks “What is the adverse effect on educational performance?” One of the school representatives answered that question, “At this point, Luke’s achievement is in the high average range for his age, despite his inattention.”

There are two inaccuracies in this answer:
(1) his performance should be measured by what he is able to accomplish in the classroom and on his report card, not a test of his intelligence/capability. I asked for him to be evaluated for special ed because he is very smart but was struggling in the classroom. His fantastic classroom teachers have been able to bring him up to grade level in reading and math since the beginning of the year. However, his writing is still below grade level. Despite his intelligence, he cannot perform in this area.
(2) Luke takes ADHD medication to help control his inattention and focus. I have always understood that accommodations would address these issues and never expected special ed services for these issues (although I know there are things that can be part of an IEP to address these needs, maybe they can be a part of a 504 as well). The sole reason I asked that he be evaluated for special ed and not just given a 504 was to address his need for Occupational Therapy as it relates to writing, drawing and scissor skills – skills absolutely necessary for school success. There is a 2-page OT report from [your OT] in which she describes Luke’s difficulty with pencil grip, letter formations, spacing, legibility, etc and even mentions that he required 1:1 attention to get through the task. She also mentions oral-motor and sensory needs, which absolutely affect classroom performance.

I fully understand that Luke is being referred to the 504 committee and that he will likely qualify for participation and accommodations. Accommodations for the ADHD are completely necessary and he receives some through the attentiveness of his
teacher already. However, giving in to the fact that he will be allowed to use a
word processor in a later grade does not explore whether or not he can improve
his writing skills with special instruction and OT and never need that type of
accommodation/crutch. To not try to overcome these deficiencies before resorting to an accommodation to address it is frankly letting down a child who could possibly reach his potential (measured in that IQ test) with a little extra

With this overview, you now have my viewpoint and understand why I have chosen to appeal this decision. I am not angry but I am going to fight for what my son needs to be successful in school and in his life. Please respond to let me know what steps I need to take to appeal this decision. I have copied school administration so they are aware of our correspondence on this matter. I chose to correspond via email to make notification in writing but to expedite the process beyond the capabilities of postal mail. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.


I am not at all looking forward to the appeal process. My biggest personal fears are snakes and public speaking! However, I will do whatever it takes to be sure my son gets the help he needs to succeed.

Have any of you had to appeal special education decisions? Any advice on it? I am definitely going to keep my cool and try to remember that none of these individuals want to harm my son or keep him from succeeding. I am now wondering if this is like health insurance -- they deny first to see if you accept it and they don't have to spend the money. If you fight, they finally do what's right. Hmmm...
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