School Services For SPD... How To Get What You Need
The first step in getting school services is to put ourselves in their shoes. Our kids spend on average about 6 hours every day, 30 hours every week in a setting that IS their job... it is their occupation, just as you have yours. That IS close to a full time job.
Now... imagine if you had a 40 hour a week job that required you to talk on
the phone selling a specific product to customers. It was
a job that was picked for you... you couldn't choose it, and it was
YOUR responsibility to get it done, no matter what. Now imagine you
had several un diagnosed conditions...a speech impediment that made you hard to understand, or dyslexia which made reading the "pitch" to the potential
customer difficult, labor intensive, and too time consuming.
Or, you had social phobia issues which made talking on the
phone an anxiety ridden endeavor. BUT, you nor your boss had ANY idea
WHY you couldn't perform like the others. They weren't interested
in finding out, in fact, many thought you were "faking it", pretending
... no testing, no analyzing, no thinking about things
that interfered with your performance, no modifications. No support,
no validation, no help. Tough luck kiddo!
Now also imagine, your success at this job depended on commissions only. How many sales you made per day. No sales...no pay. Your value as an employee was solely
based on those commissions, and if you didn't hit the bar, no matter
what the reason, your work history/record was permanently scarred.
Even worse, imagine if the people you talked to made fun of you
every day. Imagine if there were no other jobs available to you,
this was it... the one and only job and you were expected to perform
at your peak (actually, beyond YOUR peak... because it was based
solely on THEIR expectations).
You faithfully went to work every day because you HAD to... no
exceptions. You cried silently to yourself through the whole darn
day. You felt "stupid". You felt inadequate. You compared yourself
to others. You didn't understand why you couldn't get the job done...
all you knew was that you must stink at it, and your self-esteem
went right out the window. Gone. You'll never be good at anything
you think. You stop trying. You emotionally give up.
Wouldn't YOU need some accommodations/modifications
to this job and/or job description?
Doesn't it seem reasonable that you would need, and should get some extra help?
Of course you would!
So, why aren't we doing this for our SPD
kids? Several parents have written to me about this...it is a
great question. It goes something like this...
Are schools under obligation to test students for SPD under the No
Child Left Behind Act? Just wondering because my daughter's
school refuses to test her for SPD.
My friend and respected colleague, Michelle Morris writes:
The simple answer is NO... ONLY because it is not yet
on that!) in the DSM
(Diagnostic and Statistic Manual for Doctors
and Insurance Companies).
However, in many public school districts, you can still get
evaluations performed for your child under the SYMPTOMS of SPD.
For instance, if you feel your child is having difficulties that
are impacting his learning....you can ask for a full evaluation of
all areas, including fine motor, coordination, and those that are
processing related; Visual Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia,
Dysgraphia, ADHD and many others. You can ask for an evaluation
from the school OT department, on the basis that his
symptoms/behaviors/performance may be negatively impacting his
ability to learn.
Some schools are going ahead and doing this, because it's the
right thing, the moral thing to do, if they truly care and want to
help these kids.
Unfortunately, until it is included in the DSM V
- next edition published, hopefully - the schools do not get
additional funding for this disorder known as SPD, the way they already
get additional monies when they have a diagnosed ADHD child.
Another way some families are getting services is under the heading
"Other Health Impaired". This relies more on finding what symptoms
are actually impacting the child and is not so rigid in diagnostic
One IMPORTANT word of caution, in many cases I see that even when a family
can get services through the public school system, the school may
specifically only allow services for symptoms or behaviors that
directly impact the child's education, and not treat "the whole
body"... which is the very BEST approach to helping the SPD child.
The most ideal therapy for the child is usually through a private OT, who
is SIPT Certified and has a strong background in SPD theory. If
possible and financially feasible...I recommend getting the evaluation
and treatment privately, then asking the school for accommodations
based on the evaluation results and treatment plans from your private
Before doing ANY of this, I would recommend beginning with a
tutorial that guides a you step by step through the process.
It is an awesome resource...you DON'T want to miss THIS one!
It is called Education Advocacy: A Self-Help Tutorial For Parents
. written by Leslie E. Packer... a parent who KNOWS the system.... What a GIFT this resource is!
She has a comprehensive website you may want to spend some time in as well...
You will find articles, materials, and resources pertaining to Tourette's Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Executive Dysfunction, Asperger's Disorder, depression, Bipolar Disorder, sleep disorders, "rage attacks" or "storms," infection-triggered OCD or tics ("PANDAS"), sensory integration, and more.
Also, you will want to read and print THIS wonderful 2 part resource to help understand and guide you through the system...
Exceptional Education: Getting Parents Involved (Part 1)
An overview of children's and parental rights under the IDEA & PL 94-142
Exceptional Education: Getting Parents Involved (Part 2)
. Everything you need from here; sample letters, teacher recommendations, 504 explanations, about IEP's, accommodations,and SO MUCH more!
These were written by James J. Messina, Ph.D. & Constance G. Messina, Ph.D. and they will get you through the system with a greater awareness and understanding. You will definitely be the BEST possible advocate for your child once you take the time to read this resource!
Next, you WILL need to become familiar
with your rights, and what laws may apply if you choose to pursue
efforts in getting school based services. Remember, when they try
to tell you, that their district or state doesn't provide services
for, or has no funding for your child - FEDERAL Law supercedes
local and state law. For all current laws, you will want to check
They also provide a tremendous
amount of resources, trainings, and up to date information that
you will need as you begin to learn the system and what you and
your child have the right to ask for and receive.
If homeschooling, or a more appropriate private
school is not an option? Be a pain. Be that squeaky wheel who
just won't go away, until they relent. Do not feel that you need to
be their friend at the cost of your child. Your child comes first,
not their friendship, and your child doesn't have years to waste
not getting what he needs. You can still be POLITE, smile and
nod...then insist. At the very least, your child is probably
entitled to classroom accommodations, under the 504 Act.
Besides the "Education Advocacy Tutorial", I also recommend
two other publications that may help...
Your Rights Under IDEA
The 504 Accommodation Checklist
Now, you will be well on your way to understanding your rights and getting the services you need!
On a hopeful note, more school districts are
recognizing SPD and offering services, and it is just a matter of
time until this is standard procedure. So keep on fighting the good
I know these resources will keep you busy for a while, so set
aside some time for yourself to really get into the heart of it all.
Go to the library for some quiet time for yourself if you need to,
hire a babysitter, let the kids play with relatives, etc. while you
take the time to read this information. It will be so worth your
Thank you for being the BEST advocate you know how to be. Your
children will thank you one day!
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Further Reading And Resources
Pushing Occupational Therapy into the Classroom
- What is Occupational Therapy & why is it useful in the school setting?
Problem Behavior In The Classroom
- Is the problem behavior in the classroom related to sensory processing disorders? Tips for teachers on classroom accommodations to help gain control and lessen frustration with the more difficult children.
How To Help The SPD Child In The Classroom
Return to the Sensory Processing Disorder home page
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