Son Refusing to Go to School

A mother seeks help for her teen with LD, who has not been helped in resource room and is now refusing to go to school.
Refusing to go to School
My 15-year-old son has been in resource room one 40-minute class a day since third grade. He hasn't improved at all. He was held back in the eighth grade, which only made him hate school even more. Now in his first year of high school, he just refuses to go. My husband and I don't know what to do for him. He has been diagnosed with LD but our doctor won't agree that it's ADD. Help!
If your son has been going to the resource room because he has a learning disability, and he hasn't improved, it may be that he hasn't gotten enough help or the right kind of help. Special education is supposed to make a difference. In your son's case, it doesn't sound like it has. Has your son's skill and ability level increased since third grade, or has his performance stayed rather flat? If it is evident that your son has not made gains as a result of the special education, then the school is obligated to do more for him. A child shouldn't be held back if a school has failed to meet his needs.

I suggest that you write a letter to the administrator of special education, stating that you believe that your son's current refusal to go to school is a direct consequence of his not having had an appropriate educational program over the years. Ask them to create or find an appropriate program for him now. If your son is upset about his current situation, he may want to write on his own behalf. This makes for a very powerful case, and can make your son feel that he has some control over his future. The school may be able to provide an alternative program in the high school (if it's not a class for students with behavioral or emotional problems), or they may need to find a program outside the school (e.g., a private school or a vocational school with a strong LD program). If the school feels that they have done all they can, and you disagree, you have the right to dispute and challenge their position. You will probably want to contact the division of special education within your state's department of education for assistance in this matter. It may be necessary to engage the services of an attorney who specializes in advocating for the rights of children with special needs.

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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