SPED background folks... identifying Autism and ADHD question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by otterpop, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Jun 30, 2020

    Random question not related to any current students, but I’ve had previous students in these situations and I’m curious.

    Is it legal for a school to only evaluate for disabilities if there’s an academic reason?

    I’ve always been told by our SPED team that if a student is exhibiting signs of mild autism or even extreme ADHD, if their work is generally on level, they can’t be referred for services. In all cases, it wasn’t showing in classwork (except in the refusal to do it) but had led to lots of classroom disruption and disciplinary action for the student.

    Do these not count as disabilities that should be identified? I’ve been told that, if the parent does outside testing at their own expense, we can offer services with a doctor’s note if extremely needed, but we can’t have our psychologist test for these disorders.

    Is that correct, with what you know? It doesn’t seem right to me.

    Thanks :)
     
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  3. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    To answer, your initial question, yes and no. It's more nuanced than that. There must be an educational impact. That can be academic in nature, or it could be more broad.

    A student such as the one you described (academically on level but refusing to do work) can be evaluated, if the data suggest that a disability may be impacting the student's ability to participate and make progress in general education. Usually, in a situation like that, the student will eventually fall behind academically, after a long period of not doing the work. Some schools misunderstand the law to mean that you must wait until that point to evaluate, but that's not true. A discrepancy between where a student should/could be academically and where they actually are is only necessary to be identified as having a learning disability (as opposed to an emotional disability or Autism, for example), and this is only the case in states that use discrepancy models for identification. Students who are being considered as having a different type of disability can qualify if their behavior is shown to be significantly below was is the considered the norm for students in the same age group. The question is often, "even if this student qualifies, will they need special education services?" If the answer is yes, then the school should proceed with evaluation. If the answer is no (such as in the case of a student who has been medically diagnosed with Asperger's but who needs no supports at school, for example), then there is no need to proceed with an evaluation.

    Some of the specific procedures and criteria will vary by state, but, in general, an educational impact is what warrants evaluation. Some districts (maybe many?) don't follow the rules, either because they don't understand them or because it's expensive and they're banking on parents just accepting what they say to be truth. Your district's psychologist absolutely can test any student whose parents consent to testing. It's time-consuming and expensive to do so, and that is likely why they tell you and the parents that they cannot test. They're not under a legal obligation to test if there is not an educational impact and they suspect that there is no disability. However, if they suspect a disability and they suspect that the disability is impacting that student's education, then they are legally obligated to pursue testing with parent consent.
     
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  4. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    @bella84 said it very well. It's generally an educational performance matter. In many a case, the discrepancy in the classroom is often what gets a neuro-diversity or learning disability noticed.

    504s are a popular alternative accommodation, but really have nothing to do with learning, and I'm not entirely sure if any school testing would lead to a 504.
     
  5. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Thank you both. So it sounds like what our SPED team has said is mostly correct. It is hard to see students who are really struggling with things, though, and to have limited resources to help them. Often these parents know there’s an issue, and would sign off on school testing, but when it comes down to telling them they need to talk to their family doctor instead, they don’t follow up.
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I understand. Keep in mind, though, that sped is not a solution to those struggles. It's a placement. Back when I taught sped, so many classroom teachers pushed to get their students evaluated because they saw sped as some sort of magic wand that would fix all of the problems. As the sped teacher, I knew the truth was that students only came to my room to make their classroom teachers' lives easier. It wasn't like I was offering something unique that couldn't be offered by another non-sped support professional (like a counselor or intervention teacher). In truth, my setting was much worse than theirs because I had students with all sorts of varying needs grouped together in the same room at the same time, simply because they had IEP minutes that had to be met. In an ideal situation, they'd all be getting truly individualized services, but that just wasn't realistic with the ratio of student IEP minutes to sped teachers.

    My new district (and I think the old one too, actually) have started to find ways around this. Instead of relying on sped to be the only way that students can get SEB or academic interventions, they've started to offer gen ed interventions. We have a gen ed social emotional support teacher in each of the buildings within my district, plus at least one counselor. The support teachers teach social skills groups and work on behavior interventions plans all day, just like sped teachers are sometimes supposed to do. Counselors offer some support but on a less consistent and long-term basis. We also have the traditional academic intervention teachers for reading and math, so students can get those services outside of sped too. Students don't need to go through a sped evaluation process to get these services. Instead, the teachers, admin, and parents simply need to agree that the services would be beneficial to the students, based on formal and informal data.

    Again, I understand the urge to want a student to qualify for sped. We tend to think of sped as a way to get struggling students the help they need, but, more often than not, that's just not how it works. This is the prime reason that I left sped and went back to gen ed. I just couldn't accept the fact that parents and teachers thought I was providing a truly valuable service, when in reality, I was really just manning a dumping ground and trying to put bandaids on kids where I could. My best advice is to give up advocating for sped services (with the exception of for those kids who truly do meet criteria and need it), and, instead, start advocating for tier 2 or non-sped tier 3 services within your school/district. There is no law that says that these interventions can't be provided, and there are many examples of how they can be effective in supporting students within the gen ed population.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
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