“If you think your child has anxiety now…”

Published on June 15, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano

As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis.  But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.

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Such statements mislead or misrepresent the school’s legal obligations, and always in a way that benefits the school district.

After hearing so many of them, I decided to add a separate category to my blog just for this purpose, where I will post these ridiculous comments and explain why it likely violates IDEA.  Hopefully, if you’ve heard similar things from your district, next time around you will know better!

Today’s Ridiculous Comment

Recently I was talking with a parent who had been expressing concerns to her school district about her child’s anxiety.  He was apparently anxious enough, frequently enough, that it was interfering with all aspects of his life, including school.  As a result, she asked her school district to evaluate him, to ascertain whether he might have an anxiety disorder or some other diagnosis which might entitle him to special education and related services.

The response she received to her request was “if you think your child is anxious now, just see how he responds to a bunch of testing.”

Wow.  Talk about a chilling effect..  This comment is obviously designed to dissuade the parent to exercise her legal right under the IDEA to request evaluations by her school district.  School districts are required to assess a student in all areas of suspected disability when considering eligibility for special education and related services.  Instead, this parent was basically told not to have her concerns investigated.

What is most insidious about this comment is that it plays upon the parent’s desire to help her child, by telling her that finding out what might be wrong with him will hurt him.

It is not always the case, but far more often than not, when a parent has an instinct that there is something wrong with their child, they are right.  For the school district not only discredit this instinct to avoid testing this child, but to suggest doing so would be harmful to him, is incredibly unfair.  Not to mention a violation of the school district’s obligations to properly and timely evaluate the child.

Who, it turned out, did in fact have a disability requiring special education and related services.

5 Responses to “If you think your child has anxiety now…”

  1. Lisa
    June 15th, 2009 | 7:41 pm

    When we asked for OT for my son, who has severe sensory needs, I was told his cognitive ability was too low to benefit (after they gave this non-verbal child a verbal IQ test).

    We were also told his attention level was too low to benefit speech therapy.

    His very own Catch22. Too stupid to address his sensory needs, too many sensory needs to address his language.

  2. Rochelle Dolim
    June 15th, 2009 | 10:03 pm

    In court pursuing criminal truancy charges for established inability to maintain a regular presence and with alternative attendance goals written into the IEP … “Children’s capabilities are irrelevant under Utah law”.

    To another parent knowing the meeting was being taped … “We don’t have to follow IDEA; we just have to make it look like we do?”

    To the director of the middle school autism program when she pointed out the district was violating rights … “It would be a shame if we couldn’t find the money for this class next year”…My favorite, after the school had arranged for the girls to be off campus for an IEE … “If the girls are here before their appointments we mark them as truant”. “We need to go back and change those dates”. Umm … altering official records tends to be frowned upon.

    The former compliance officer at a meeting of special ed teachers … “We are the least compliant district in the nation in adhering to IDEA”. They also taught teachers how to document in a way that would keep infractions under the radar.

  3. Rochelle Dolim
    June 15th, 2009 | 10:15 pm

    Oh yeah … I forgot the district’s own attorney’s favorite quote … in front of a former state legislator …

    Me – “So you’re telling me that cost, not need, is the primarily factor in you deciding what you will consider providing” (at this point, I had gotten their attorney’s attention; she knows I’ve read SCOTUS rulings)

    District Compliance Officer- “YES”

    At which point she grabbed his arm and called for a private conference with her clients.

  4. Karin Sue
    April 24th, 2013 | 1:06 pm

    I had an outside evalution done on my daughter becasue she has difficult reading in school. She was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Anxiety and Recpetive/Perceptive language disorder. After doing the school evaluations, they found no evidence of any language disorder. How do I hadle this? My outside eval was very expensive and I feel like they ignored all of the testing results found in the language and OT areas.

  5. Jennifer Laviano
    April 24th, 2013 | 5:37 pm

    The school district is required to “consider” any information you share with them, including outside evaluations. It doesn’t take much to have said that you “considered” it, though. I would say that if you feel they did not follow the evaluations, especially if the issue is that they aren’t going to provide her with any services, it might be time to exercise your rights with an advocate or attorney in this field. A great list of these is http://www.COPAA.org and http://www.wrightslaw.com‘s Yellow Pages for Kids. Best, Jen