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Expert Q&A

My son’s IEP states he will not take math, science, or social studies. Is this permissible by law?

My son is 9 years old and is in special education. His IEP states that he will not take math, science, or social studies. I would like to know if this is the process for all children who have difficulty learning to read.

The special ed teacher told me that her students never learn to read over a fourth grade level. I asked if he was mentally retarded and if that is why he won’t have a successful school education. They told me it is possible. But at home we find that he has the ability to learn and remember things as long as we explain it to him.

His problem is reading and most of the schoolwork requires that he read but he cannot retain what he reads. If he doesn’t have MR then why would they keep him from “fun” subjects like science and math? Those are things he likes. In the regular classroom they say he requires too much teacher time because they have to explain things and read him directions.

I am so confused and even if he is never a good reader there are many other ways to teach.


Dear Lorraine:

First, if you have questions or disagreements with the school about your child’s disability label, level of functioning, or capability of learning, or the reasons that he may not be making appropriate progress, you may want to consider either requesting a reevaluation from the school district or seeking a private psycho-educational evaluation.

I am also concerned about any statement by a teacher that his/her students “never learn to read over a fourth grade level.” Even children with severe disabilities are sometimes capable of learning beyond expectations.

If a student is not severely cognitively impaired, such statements or limitations are especially inappropriate and often establish self-fulfilling prophecies. Each student’s educational program should be individualized based on his/her needs and capabilities. A one-size-fits-all rule is not consistent with the requirements of IDEA or Section 504.

In addition, students should not be excluded from academic subjects by rule or practice. This also must be individualized. In fact, students should be mainstreamed to the maximum extent appropriate, including the provision of supplemental aides and supports to the extent necessary to allow the child to be successful.

Unfortunately, in this difficult economic period, budget concerns are becoming a bigger factor in many schools’ decisions about placement and services. Despite this, the IDEA still requires individualized programming in the least restrictive environment appropriate to the student, including use of supplementary help to facilitate participation in regular education.

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