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John's Story


John, an eight-year-old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning, finds school challenging.  He had attended four schools by the third grade.

As his class was moving through the third grade school year, John was falling further and further behind. He was unable to spell his name, state his address, write the alphabet, or count past ten. Academically, he tested at a pre-kindergarten to kindergarten grade level. In the evening, John would cry and tell his mother that he did not want to go back the next day. He was struggling, frustrated, and refused to do work, and as a result, the school staff members viewed his behavior as a significant problem.

John’s mother, who was at her wits end, knew something was not right. She talked with other parents and finally sought the assistance of an attorney, who helped her advocate for a more appropriate program and placement. The attorney worked with the IEP team and the Office of Special Education to order updated assessments and a classroom observation by an outside expert. The IEP team reviewed the assessments and the observation, and the Office of Special Education proposed a program at the student’s home school, which would include four hours of intensive one-on-one services per day. Knowing that John would find being one-to-one with an adult for most of the day a punitive situation, and that he enjoyed interacting with his classmates, the family asked the attorney to advocate for placement at a private separate day school.  This setting would be less restrictive because there would be ample opportunity for social interaction with peers throughout the school day. The IEP team agreed, and the John's placement was changed to a private separate day school. John’s mother reports that John is happy, learning, and now looks forward to going to school each day.

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