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I work with a high school student who is in foster care and was on IEP that lapsed due to numerous placement changes and bouncing from school to school. He recently was evaluated and found eligible for special services. The student has refused to accept these services because he believes that special education means “retarded.” He is failing all classes. How can I influence this student’s decision to accept services?


Your brief description suggests that this high school student has been through a lot. He probably does not feel very secure, safe, or good about himself. Getting him to accept yet another problem, “I’m dumb,” will not be easy.

Maybe the school counselor can help him. Maybe a concerned tutor can show him how the help will be useful. Maybe the concept of a learning disability might not be used but, “You know, you have had to move around so much that your education has not been good. You need help to make up for what your school did not teach you.”

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