Special Ed for Six-Year-Old?

Find tips on what to do when your child does not qualify for special education.
Q
My 6-year-old nephew, who lives with us, is having real problems in school. When he brings papers home, they're over half wrong. The school tests say that he doesn't need to be put in special education, but I really think that he does. He doesn't know all his colors, he can only count to 13, and he won't put any effort into studying with me. He acts like he doesn't know anything, but maybe he really doesn't.

I don't know what to do to help him do better in school. His teacher says that he probably will need to stay in kindergarten another year. We talked about it, but he doesn't want his friends to leave him. What should I do? I'm desperate!

A
It's not clear to me whether your nephew has had a full evaluation for a possible learning disability at his school. If you have legal responsibility for him, you would have had to sign consent for this evaluation to take place. You should also have had all your rights explained to you about what you can do if you don't agree with the evaluator's decision about giving your nephew services. You have a right to an impartial hearing to discuss any placement decisions. Contact your local committee on special education or child study team. (Different locations use different names for this service. You're looking for the central office that controls evaluation and placement decisions for special education services in your school district).

If you have difficulty getting good information, contact the toll-free numbers for the Learning Disabilities Association of America (1-888-300-6710) or International Dyslexia Association (1-800-ABCD123) to see if they have someone in your area who can help you through this process.

Just repeating the grade without any change in services rarely helps a child with the difficulties you are describing. You're doing the right thing by searching for better answers for your nephew. Good luck!

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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