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The following are past questions and answers from Dr. Larry Silver on this topic.

My son's accomodations will change when he starts middle school. Who should I talk to about this transition?

I have a son who's 12 years old now. He has moderate LD mainly in visual processing, working memory, and expressive language. If he has no ADHD, should I still consider medication? He will start his middle school next week. In elementary school, he was pulled out for 45 minutes a day each week. Now, he will go to special education class for his language arts and social class.

I don't know whether it is good idea to place him in non-mainstream classes. Would this destroy his self-esteem? Should I insist on putting him in the regular class (though only push-in service will be provided)?

If your son does not have ADHD, he should not be considered for an ADHD medication. I cannot answer your questions on placement in middle school without knowing more details. You should be meeting with the special education (IEP) team to discuss what he will need for middle school. Has this happened yet? If you are unsure of the recommendations made by your school, seek a private consultant who can help you decide what is best for your son.

My son has an auditory processing disorder and is struggling but the school is only offering a 504 plan. What can I do?

My son is 12 and has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. He has a hard time comprehending the material in school. I'm told he doesn't focus or engage in asking questions. I wonder if he has ADHD, although the doctor said he only has an auditory processing disorder.

What can I do to help him in school? He can't retain the information and the workload is too much. I'm not getting any help from the school. My son is a good kid who tries extremely hard. I don't want him to give up. He is extremely nervous giving a presentation or performing in front of people to the point that he hunches over and starts crying. Please help me! The school would not give him an IEP. They recently said they may consider a 504.

My first question: Who diagnosed him with an auditory processing disorder? This person should be advising you. Such a disorder often causes learning disabilities. Was he evaluated for this? If not, this needs to be done. Where are his skills in reading, writing, math, and organization? What you describe does not sound like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I support your not accepting a 504 Plan. This plan would provide accommodations but not remedial services. You need to be assertive about wanting a full assessment leading to an IEP. Under an IEP, he should get both accommodations and services. Maybe you need a special education consultant to advise you on your rights under the education law and how to approach your school.

(If you want to read more on this, look in my book, The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press.)

Good luck. Don't give up. If all of the above fail, e-mail back.

Should a school retain a first grader with special needs?

My son is 7 years old with ADHD and is in the first grade. He had a rough time this year in school and the school wants to hold him back. I just found out that my son was diagnosed with special needs. Now the school is giving me a choice of whether I want him to go to the next grade or stay in the first grade. I do not know what to do.

Your school professionals concluded that your son has learning disabilities and ADHD. He will need special education services along with the general education programs. He will also need medication to address the ADHD.

The question of repeating first grade or moving on to second grade should be based on the extent of his problems and his basic skill levels. The school professionals should make a specific recommendation and not leave the decision to you.

Should you agree, fine. Should you not, you might want to seek the advise of a private special education consultant to advise you. Without more information, I cannot make a recommendation.

The school wants to put my social, bright 13-year-old daughter into an all-day program. What should I do?

Dr. Silver,

My 13-year-old daughter has had trouble learning, retaining, and applying information since kindergarten. She has been in a resource program since fifth grade. This year I was informed she needed to attend a special day class that is more intensive than the one she is in. I went to visit the classroom and was so surprised to find 10 6-8th graders with very low functioning ability.

My daughter is bright and social, and never causes problems in school. I feel putting her in an all-day class like this will really hurt her self-esteem. I am wondering if she could have ADHD, although the testing doesn't indicate this.

She also scored low on her intelligence test. However, she comes across as a normal 13-year-old. She is on the cheerleading team and is very good at dance and athletics. Can you please give me some advice?



Your school professionals appear to have developed an IEP to address your daughter's needs. If you are not comfortable with this IEP, you have two choices.

First, you can appeal the decisions (such as diagnosis, needs, and class placement). Your school must then have another team from outside of your school review the case. Or, you can see a private professional knowledgeable in special education problems and request a private assessment. Should this professional agree with you, you can request another meeting of the IEP team and bring this person.

What do I do about teachers who belittle my son in front of other students and do not follow his IEP?

I have a 9-year-old son, who was diagnosed with dysgraphia and ADHD in second grade. He has a special education plan, which his teachers usually follow, but because he is in lots of special groups, math help, reading help etc., he has lots of different teachers.

I am really having issues getting them to positively reinforce him. I fight with them all the time and it is just the same thing over and over — he gets a new teacher who is supposed to follow his IEP and instead they make fun of him or belittle him because he does not learn the same as other children. I am so sad and frustrated, I want to just follow him around and stop anyone who hurts him, but I can't do that.

Is there anything I can do to help his beaten self-esteem? Or maybe a different way to approach the teachers? He is just a little boy and he learns a little differently than others. I have had teachers use him as an example, saying things like, "If you don't do your homework, you'll end up like him." They have told him, "If you don't stop making your letters backwards, you will never have a job or a drivers license." Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.



If your son has an IEP that clarifies your sons disabilities and the services needed, do not tolerate any teacher acting the way you describe. Keep a log of each occurrence. When you have enough examples, request an IEP meeting to discuss your sons progress. At this meeting, present your log and ask that this issue be addressed.

If your son has a 504 Plan, based possibly on the ADHD, follow the same process. Here, you would request a 504 meeting to discuss his progress.

Do not allow this to continue. But, you must document, document, and document. If your only data is from your son, see if you can get validation from another student, an aide, or someone else.

How can you get the school system to help a child who is doing well now, but needs intervention to prevent failure next year?

My son is 10 years old and soon to start the fifth grade. In early 2007, he was diagnosed with mild learning disabilities, specifically with a phonemic awareness deficit and short-term memory deficit. It was also suggested that he perhaps has some trouble with CAP, but that no one in this area does this type of testing. His public school can do nothing for him because his intelligence was at a low-average to average level and compared to his academic output, there was not a significant gap between the two.

He makes a few A's, mostly B's and some C's. He loves to learn new things about the world; however, he is increasingly frustrated with the demands of higher elementary school. He is doing as well as he is in school because I work with him so much after school. His teachers try to help in the class as much as they can, but with almost 30 kids, it is impossible. I am concerned that he requires so much help now and wonder how we will get through middle school next year when the teachers won't be so helpful.

I am returning to school to finish my master's degree and will not be available to help him as much. His counselor said we might need to retest him in middle school if his problems become worse because by then, he might be more than a few grade levels behind instead of the one he is now. He would then most likely qualify for special education and an IEP.

It doesn't end here...my son also was born with congenital heart defects and almost lost his life this past year due to his heart issues. However, with everyone's preserverance, he has recovered wonderfully. The point is, my son wants to lead a full life, but that full life may be shortened unfortunately by his medical condition. I can't let him get two or more levels behind. He wants to go to college and do so much more.

Is there anything else that I should be doing? What else can I do to help him? Anyone else I should contact? Any tips on how to help him be a successful reader, speller and writer? Why must my son get two or more grades behind before anyone will help him? It frustrates me and disgusts me to no end that our schools are failing the kids that need them the most.

Anyone can teach a bunch of straight A students. You know, the ones that don't even need a teacher and would do fine on their own. To be a true teacher they must be able to connect with and teach our kids who are having trouble in school; that is the true art and science of teaching. The trouble is finding one of those rare teachers.

Thank You,

Your son is lucky to have you as his mother. You have been there to help and you are not ready to accept what the school is saying. It sounds as if the school is saying that only if you stop helping him so much at home and you let him fail, will he be eligible for help.

Public schools often use a "wait to fail" model for providing help. "Your son has to be two standard deviations behind before he is eligible for services." This is wrong, but it is not uncommon to be used to avoid services. If you can afford to do it financially, seek a comprehensive private evaluation. Get another opinion on where he is and what he needs. (If you cannot afford to do this, seek out a private educational consultant to review the school evaluations and to advise you.) Start an appeal process and use good consultants to help you fight.

You need to be an informed and assertive advocate for your son. Seek help from a private consultant to help you do this. (Ask friends who they have used. Or, go to the website of Learning Disabilities Association of America, then click on your state, which is on the left side of the site. Find out the name of the State chapter of this organization. Contact them and ask for names of advocates in your areas.

Good luck and don't give up.

Will having a student repeat a grade in school help them?

When is it appropriate to retain a student in the eighth grade? My daughter goes to a private Catholic school. She was previously diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type, Visual-Motor Processing Deficit and also appears to have difficulty with expressive writing.

Many interventions have taken place since Kindergarten. She has had years of private academic therapy, vision therapy, occupational therapy, and goes to a psychiatrist for medication management. In addition, she has accommodations as well as some modifications. She sees an Occupational therapist one day per week for two hours and an academic therapist twice a week.

I am also in the field with a (LMHC) & ESE background. In the past two years she has had many external stressors. She was taken off medication for ADHD due to "crashing" in sixth grade. She has also missed school due to a family crisis.

She is in the process of getting an IEP in public school. I know it will be a disaster if she moves on to a public high school and I am at a real loss as to what to do. If I retain her she will graduate with her class and then go to a public middle school for one year and move on to high school.

Should I retain her given the amount of previous and current interventions? I don't want to break her heart but I also want to do what's right for her. With the amount of school she has lost and the achievement level she is at, she might benefit with an additional year in eighth grade. (fourth grade math and beginning sixth grade reading skills according to the WJIIIR.) This is a terrible decision and she may loose what confidence she does have. Please give me your opinion if you can. I would sincerely appreciate it as a feel that I am all alone in the process.


The question is not whether you want to retain your child in her grade or not. The question is what are the many problems your daughter faces and how best to address each. First, may I urge you to clarify exactly where your daughter's current learning disabilities are as well as her learning strengths. She may have had excellent services over the years; however, where is she now. Does she have the skills to handle her current academic needs? Is she provided the necessary services and accommodations to be successful?

Once these issues are clarified, you option would be to keep her in the private school, being sure that she receive all of the accommodations she will need. And, it will be critical that you provide all of the special education services she now needs privately. (You could try to get services from her public school. But, be sure that they are adequate and remember that she must travel to her nearest public school to receive these services.

Or, your option would be to transfer her to the public school. Even here, it will be essential that her IEP reflect all of her needs and services needed.

You also add other factors: She was taken off medication for ADHD due to crashing. No, you do not take students off medication for this side effect. You address this side effect. Second, you note serious family crises that cannot be minimized.

Maybe you need the advise of a good special education consultant regarding her school needs. And, you need to see a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about treating ADHD as well as LD as well as the emotional issues. Probably best to address each of these needs would be a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

How do you distinguish between learning disabilities and brain damage?

My daughter, who is now eight, was born at 24 weeks gestation. As a result, she suffered from lack of oxygen and developed a grade 2 bleed. She does not need a shunt and functions fairly well, ambulatory, good verbal skills and such. She does have mild to moderate CP. The best diagnosis we have been given is global brain damage, which means the damage affects every part of her life.

She is in third grade at her neighborhood school. I believe she has been socially promoted). She was in a self-contained school for three years. Her label on her IEP is LD. Since Emily does have brain damage, should she or any child with this type of damage be considered LD?

I have a son who is LD in reading and writing. And they seem different. He learns differently. She, on the other hand, seems slower. There just seems to be missing pieces. She is roughly two years behind in reading and three years behind in math.

Would a change in labeling help with the way she is being served on her IEP? I don't think they take in mind that she does have this damage. The traditional special education instruction for LD may not be what she needs to progress. I am just finding it hard to believe that brain damage and LD are the same.

Thank you in advance,

There is a category within IDEA for Traumatic Brain Injury; however, students with your daughter's history are usually identified based on how the prenatal trauma impacts on their ability to learn. In general, children with her history have a more global pattern of disabilities than the child usually seen as having a learning disability.

The key to your question is that your daughter is not making progress in her current placement and with her current services. What is critical is that the most current psychological and educational evaluations be used to assess her placement, types of interventions, and intensity of interventions. She was in a self-contained program for preschool. You feel that the program she has been in since Kindergarten has not been adequate.

I would advise you to see a private special education consultant who could review your daughter's current educational disabilities and status, review her current placement, and help you decide if you should appeal her IEP placement, asking for a more intensive program.

Why is my daughter's school hesitant to label her learning disability with the term "dyslexia"?

My daughter is a sixth grade student and has always had problems with reading and writing. She has an IEP, but the school doesn't seem to be helping with the obvious.

Since being diagnosed with ADD, I have been doing research on dyslexia and she seems to fit all the symptoms surrounding this learning problem. But whenever I bring this up to the school they don't want to hear it or act like I know nothing. They deny that there is a test for this specific disability. They say that all the people with learning disabilities are taught the same way and that is just the way it is.

My biggest concern here is she is not getting the help that she needs and still has the hardest time with the simplest of words. What should I do or better yet how do I go about getting her tested for something the school doesn't acknowledge?


Some professionals prefer to use terms that have been used for the past 50 years and that describe the primary problem.

Thus, if the difficulty is with using phonological skills to read, the child has dyslexia. If the problem is with writing, the term Dysgraphia is used. If math is the problem, Dyscalculia is used.

In the mid-1970s a law was passed requiring that all public schools address the needs of children with disabilities. This landmark law created the whole special education system. The term Learning Disability was used. Whether these disabilities impacted on reading, writing, math, or other areas, the umbrella term used is Learning Disability.

So, try not to focus so much on terms as on what your daughter needs. If she is not getting the help you believe she needs, you might seek a private educational consultant to advise you on how to approach your school system. If the school is limited in what it can offer, you might have to supplement what she gets in school with private help.

How do I get my son changed from a 504 to an IEP?

How do I get my son changed from a 504 to an IEP?


An IEP is based on your son meeting the requirements of your school system to be identified as having a specific disability.

Under the school law, IDEA, services and accommodations must be provided once a disability is identified. This IEP spells out what services and accommodations will be provided.

Section 504 is based on another law, now called the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this law, if someone has a disability, he or she must be provided accommodations (services are not mentioned).

So, go back to your school professionals and clarify for yourself why they do not believe that he meets the criteria to be identified as having a disability. Without meeting these criteria, an IEP will not be considered.