Dear Mr. Cohen,
My child has been diagnosed with ADHD. He is a bright kid but just doesn’t focus when in class and he is very disorganized. He is now in seventh grade and he still is struggling in school; specifically he is not completing all his assignments (a problem for the last couple of years) and is in danger of receiving F’s in three classes.
The last couple of years his teachers have not been very cooperative with us. We have requested an IEP for our son and have been invited to attend an initial IEP team meeting. Evidently we are entitled to bring an individual knowledgeable in this area to the meeting.
My question is should we bring such an individual to the initial meeting and if yes can you recommend such a person. Thank you for your help.
You are seeking information on whether it is helpful to bring an individual knowledgeable about the content of IEPs for children with ADHD to an initial IEP meeting. There are a number of considerations with respect to this decision. First, it is important at an initial IEP meeting to establish positive rapport with the school staff and to communicate to them that you are interested in working with them in a collaborative manner. You wish to give them the message that you have confidence in them and hope to have a positive working relationship. In some instances, bringing outside individuals with you to the initial meeting may give the school staff a message that you don’t trust their expertise and/or may threaten them because your outside advisers may appear to know more than the school staff do about the specific things that you are asking for. Thus, care should be given in introducing outside professionals into initial IEP meetings in order to avoid offending the school staff.
At a minimum, however, it is very important that you come into an IEP meeting, whether an initial meeting or later, with as much information as possible as to the types of accommodations and services that your child needs in order that you can be sure that the school staff is doing what they should be doing in developing an appropriate program for your student. If you decide it is premature to bring an outside professional to the meeting, it is nonetheless helpful to have consulted with outside professionals to have a clear idea of the types of services and accommodations that should be included in the IEP so that you can make informed requests of the school district and/or make sure that the proposals that they are offering are sufficient.
If you have struggled with the school to get the initial meeting and have the impression that the school staff is not sophisticated about how to respond to the needs of a child with ADHD, it may be worthwhile to bring outside clinicians to an IEP meeting even though it may offend some of the school staff. In preparing for an IEP meeting at which you intend to be accompanied by an outside clinician, it is useful to review how you will approach the school staff and encourage the outside professionals to do so in a manner that is collaborative rather than confrontational. Different clinicians have different personalities and orientations to such meetings. It is important to assess this in advance and to come into the meeting with as positive an orientation to working with the school staff as possible.
In addition to the participation of outside clinicians, or in lieu of such participation, it is generally a good idea to bring at least one person along as an observer and friendly presence. It is never a good idea for a parent to go to a meeting alone. If two parents are not available, whether because it is a one parent household or the second parent cannot attend, it is best to arrange for a close friend, extended family member, or some other significant person to attend with the parent. This person should be given the role of note taker for the parent. It is important to review with that person the role in order that they not inadvertently step on toes when the parent was seeking a more restrained approach to the school staff.