Why Keep Your Child Out of Special Education?

If your child is struggling in school and isn’t reaching key developmental milestones, you may be wondering if your child needs special education classes. As a parent, you want to do anything within your power to help. You want your child to progress in school, to feel successful.

It seems obvious that high academic achievement is linked to good self-esteem and to financial success. But you also want your child to develop a love of learning. You want your child to actually see the connection between academic and  personal success.

That’s why, when you see your child is struggling in school, your initial reaction might be to request testing through the school district, to get your child evaluated for special education. After all, special education is a free resource for children in pubic school whose families pay school taxes. Why not take advantage of any available resources?

Special Education Offers Equity

For children with legitimate disabilities, special education is an important resource: one that can offer educational equity. The special education system was designed to help kids who couldn’t acquire academic achievement on their own without help. Services such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, literacy and reading, and many others are available to students who qualify for special education. These services help children bridge the educational equity gap, feel good about themselves, and get excited about learning.

But it makes no sense to conclude that special education is the only solution to your child’s academic problems. Special education services may not be the right reaction to the string of failures a child has suffered, or a teacher’s discouraging comments on your child’s report card. Parents should instead ask, “Does my child really need special education?” and “Is special education the best option for my child?”

According to Dr. Ann Greenberg, a clinical psychologist and author of the parent handbook, “Keep Your Child Out of Special Education,” some children would be better served with services provided outside the realm of special education. Written for parents, this book discusses children who fall somewhere between the mainstream student population and those students, who without special education, wouldn’t make it through school.

special education teacher works with student on verbal skills

Special Education History

For many kids, special education can mean the difference between equity in education and being barred from learning and academic achievement. According to the National Education Association, education should be accessible and fair to all children, no matter their abilities or station. In 1954, the landmark legal battle, Brown v. Board of Education, aimed to equalize an educational system riddled with segregation and inequity in the way schools received government funding.This legal win also improved accessibility to students with disabilities.

In 1975, President Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Included in this act are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school-based accommodations as outlined in Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws makes it easier for students with disabilities to access services.

Students who meet specific criteria set up by the U.S. Department of Education whose disabilities prevent learning and get in the way of access to educational services, can receive a wide range of special services through their designated school districts without paying additional out-of-pocket expenses. Even students with less obvious disabilities like ADHD and dysgraphia can get special education services if an evaluation shows proof that the disability keeps a child from learning.

But free access to special education doesn’t mean that a parent should use these services at the first sign of a problem, or at all.  And there are consequences, some of them negative, to having a special education classification.

smiling special education teacher uses flash cards with student

What are the criteria for special education?

In order for a child to be declared eligible for special education and related services it must be determined that the child is a “child with a disability” and is in need of special education and related services. How does the law decide what it means to have a disability?

According to the Department of Education, “A child with a disability” is:

      • A child who has been evaluated according to the IDEA evaluation process, and who may have intellectual disabilities; a hearing impairment including deafness; a speech or language impairment; a visual impairment including blindness; serious emotional issues (referred to in IDEA as “emotional disturbance”); an orthopedic impairment; autism; traumatic brain injury; another health impairment; a specific learning disability; deaf-blindness; or multiple disabilities; and
      • Who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.

At the discretion of the state, the local school district, and the school, a “child with a disability,” between the ages of three and nine or a child experiencing developmental delays that have been confirmed through a district evaluation can be classified as learning-disabled and may be provided with special education services.


If special education is available, why not use it?

Classifying your child as “special needs” has consequences. Yes, there are kids who without special education might never make it through the educational system. But imagine this scenario as mapped out by Dr. Greenberg: Your boss tells you each day that you were hired for your job because you are special needs. Every day of your life, you have a label that indicates you are a notch below your co-workers. Your co-workers treat you differently. Less is expected of you. Your work-related responsibilities are modified because of your label.

After awhile, the label of being special needs—of being part of the special education system—becomes a yoke you have to shoulder. The label turns into an obstacle, one that you can’t seem to overcome. And having that label does indeed affect self-esteem. Being labeled “special needs” may actually undermine your child’s efforts to get educated and get ahead.

Think of it this way: if someone tells you you’re not as capable as other people because you have a disability, why try at all? The label “special needs” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the child feels incapable of learning success.

That’s why “special needs” is a label you want to avoid placing on your child if you can.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ask for accommodations? No! There are accommodations that school administrators can offer instead. Receiving effective accommodations can protect your child from ending up with a “special needs” label.

If your child seems to have a problem in school, what should you do?

According to Dr. Greenberg, you should take a deep breath before you demand special education services. Do your due diligence first. See if you can get to the root of the problem and find solutions that help your child outside of the special education system. Become invested in your child’s welfare because it’s your child’s future, and not because a child’s academic failure would be a stain on your ego. Look for community resources. Extend yourself as much as you can toward getting your child the help she needs. Let your child know that you are there to support her.


  • Do gather evidence about your child’s performance. Look at all past tests, school projects, and homework assignments. Disregarding grades, read through teacher comments and look for any patterns that jump out. For example: do teachers comment that your child is bright and personable, but becomes frustrated when changing off between activities and assignments? Does your child seem lost when it’s time to begin an assignment? Does s/he seem unable to map out a process during problem-solving exercises?
  • Do meet with a school psychologist if you suspect an academic or behavioral problem. A school psychologist can do several things. He or she can observe your child in the classroom, talk with teachers, and negotiate accommodations if needed. If there’s a behavioral problem, a school psychologist can talk with your child and assess if the behavior is linked to a larger learning issue. If there is a bigger problem, the psychologist can recommend some intervention that might help you avoid special education such as tutoring, therapy, mindfulness meditation for anxiety, or even an organizational strategy coach.
  • Do evaluate your home setting. Is your home structured in a way that is conducive to learning? Does your child have a specific distraction-free place for doing homework with adequate materials and lighting? I knew one family where the kids were always searching for pencils, tape, and other helpful school supplies they needed for after-school work. I bought them a box, filled it with colored pencils, an economy-pack of colored Sharpies, tape, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, extra notebooks, and a host of other goodies. I checked the box monthly, topping it up as necessary, and the family jokingly referred to this supply box as the “Merle Box.”
  • Do meet with your pediatrician and evaluate your child’s health. Does your child sleep well and eat balanced meals? Is your child rested or tired much of the time? Does your child often have a stomachache or frequent headaches? Poor sleep habits can affect a child’s concentration and poor eating habits can affect sleep, energy levels, and the immune system. Do what you can to rule out any potential health issues that might interfere with your child’s learning.
  • Do arrange for special help for your child if she seems to be struggling in core subjects. Many teachers offer early or late office hours and special tutoring sessions. Arrange for a private tutor if your child needs it and you can afford the fees.
  • Do help your child with organizational strategies especially when it comes to doing homework. Each day (with younger students), have your child read through class notes and handouts. Break down homework into two categories—homework that’s easier and takes less time; and homework that’s more complex and needs more time. Have your child start with the easier homework. Taking this approach has a two-pronged benefit: Completing easier homework stimulates the child’s thought processes and gets them into homework mode. Doing the easier homework assignment first, leads to feelings of accomplishment. Once done, the child can check off this task from her list and feel successful. Finishing easier homework first also warms up the child for problems that require more intellectual effort.
  • Do convey to your child the message that “quitting is not an option.” Your child should know that you don’t care about perfection. You care about effort, consistency, and completing started tasks.
  • Do implement some rules or maxims that help your child stay on course. In our family, we implement the “five problems a day” strategy. This means that even when a child doesn’t have homework, s/he should still study and read textbooks and notes to sharpen memory and build consistent study habits.
  • Do develop a strong channel for communication with teachers and administrators and let your child know that you have regular conversations with teachers and that you are all working together to make him a success.


  • Don’t make educational decisions based on your personal dreams. Perhaps you always wished you’d gone to an Ivy League school or that prestigious prep school. Perhaps you had higher hopes for your own child than you had for yourself. By having unrealistic expectations, you are adding to your child’s burdens, an unnecessary pressure. Make decisions for your child based on your child’s needs, and not on your own.
  • Don’t assume that switching schools will solve the problem.
  • Don’t place blame. When your child is struggling, it’s easy to feel a personal sense of responsibility: that somehow your parenting is to blame. Out of frustration and helplessness, you may feel like lashing out—at your child, at your partner, at the teachers. Stop and take a deep breath. Blaming others accomplishes nothing.
  • Don’t grumble if you have to modify your schedule to take your child to tutoring sessions. Your child will understand your grumbling as his personal failing: He’s the weak link in the family. He’s the one who creates all the problems. Insist that everyone who interacts with your child see tutoring as a positive endeavor. Let them know that grumbling is unacceptable.
  • Don’t impose your own feelings of insecurity on your child. Your child’s problems are not about you. Solving your child’s problems are about helping him to grow into a more successful, more confident student, one who will become an independent adult who loves learning.
  • Don’t compare your own schooling experience to your child’s. Teaching methods have changed. Certainly don’t compare yourself to your child. Remember that you remember your childhood through a lens revised by adult memories and perceptions. Comparing your child to yourself can be destructive to your child’s self esteem.
  • Don’t do homework for your child. That sends the wrong message: the message that your child has an out. As a teacher, I saw a handful of students whose parents secretly wrote their papers for them, correcting their homework sheets, and even creating their art projects. Your child must learn that he must do the work and that being PERFECT should never be part of his lexicon. The important thing is to be consistent and to try.
  • Don’t let homework drag out for hours. If your child is having trouble completing homework each night, set a timer. Give him 15-minute spans of homework time with the promise of a ten-minute movement break. (Movement and exercise can improve focus.) Continue that cycle until homework is completed.
  • Don’t remain silent if you feel there’s too much homework. If the teacher is assigning an excessive amount of homework, an amount that your child can’t possibly complete or that feels overwhelming, talk to the teacher about alternatives. Can your child do his homework during study hours? Is the homework really just classwork that your child isn’t  managing to complete?

Special education can be a wonderful thing for those children who need it, but don’t run to it just yet. With accommodations and effort from parent and child, it may not be necessary. And let’s face it: nobody needs a label. Least of all your child.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published June 26, 2015 and has been completely revised and updated for accuracy and scope.

Found what you just read useful? Why not consider sending a donation to our Kars4Kids youth and educational programs. Or help us just by sharing!

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About Merle Huerta

Merle Huerta is a staff writer with Kars4Kids.org, a teacher, tutor, a retired army wife, and a mother of a blended family of 13.

Reader Interactions


  1. JMD says

    Thank you very much for this article. When I was seven years old, I struggled with behavior problems (mainly talking in class) and was initially diagnosed with ADHD (turned out to be a combination of stimulating allergy medication, boredom with the slow pace of the classroom, and my parents’ own constant bickering keeping me up all night). The very unsympathetic teacher I had that year tried to put me in special education, probably to get me out of her classroom (she told my mother that she felt that I, a seven year old child, was “manipulative”).

    Thank God my mother refused and sent me to the school counselor instead. Turned out I was tired, anxious, bored, and gifted. When held to a higher standard, taken off Sudafed, given a few counseling sessions, and afforded some extra sleep (after my mom got put on Prozac), I began to excel.

    Now I am a medical doctor, so I guess I didn’t need special ed after all…

    • Varda Epstein says

      As editor of this blog: I love it! About your mom and Prozac, especially. LOL.
      Glad things worked out so well for you! 🙂

  2. Jenna says

    Thank you for this article, It reaches out to the parents like myself, that there are other answers. Just sticking them to this class which yes will offer more one on one skilled help but in every conversation I have I am told “Your child won’t get held back.” Seriously is that supposed to be comforting? Knowing my child is struggling and the biggest concern is he wont get held back. So in other words my struggling child will go forward when he is not supposed to, because he is “Special Ed” . That title comes along with baggage besides being separated from other peers that are no different then him but gives him privileges that allow him to fail and get taught that he can still get by. I am no doctor, author or chief editor but I think it is wrong to make this seem the only option for help. My dad could have done the same with me but chose not to. I was in 2nd grade when my mom gave up and left me with my dad. I had already lived in 4 cities, been to more than 6 schools and my homes were hotels and peoples living rooms. I started in the middle of the school year completely lost, couldn’t read. My teacher told my dad to put me in “Special Ed” it will help with one and one and special instructions and less distractions, it will offer tools she cant provide and it wont punish me by getting held back. He opted out and insisted on “pull outs” instead. I am glad he did, It taught me to work hard I may have not gone far in a career choice or being AP in my class but i got through it and I believe many other kids can too. I feel we are not as supportive of life situations that cause distractions and insist that it is more of a “problem” that has to be separated.

  3. Very concerned says

    STRUGGLING :: THE SYSTEM ::My daughter is being forced to , im feeling stone walled to place child on meds , THE SCHOOL WANTS A Diagnosis ! for something that THE AMERICAN DIAGNOSTIC STATISTICAL JOURNAL and MENTAL DISORDERS ,, as well the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH SAYS ( We do not have a valid test for ADD/ADHD . to place her in a special needs class ,, MY CHILD CLAIMS : She can not hear the teacher, the teacher wont repeat it ,, my child says it was not explained to her says the teacher wont ,, and so now my child dose not want to ask ,, she is often not giving time to explain she is suspended for not listening and showing frustrated defiant disorder behavior ,, and has involved CPS in our lives , now not only is the school making medical claims , invading my personal privacy but questioning my parenting ,, when in my eyes its clearly a problem with teaching skills since ive refused to put my child on the suggested medications from the school ,,,allowing them to place her in special class or giving them a diagnosis being told they need one .. AT HOME/OTHER PUBLIC SETTINGS , SHE DOSE NOT EXHIBIT WHAT THEY CLAIM,, She interacts fine with other children , learns and follows direction as well as a 6 year can just fine ,,passes tests in school when subs give the tests , (they talk louder ) she says! DONT MISUNDERSTAND ME ,, I do want the best for my child ,…if …. she needs help ,, we are having her tested ,, now caught in a circle of local doctors whos opinions/attitudes seem to change as soon as the school is mentioned,.. LEAVES ME QUESTIONING: How often are children being and parents pushed to place children in special education none the wiser , because teachers/schools are not doing there jobs as educators or for funding which is in the billions ,,

    • Varda Epstein says

      You say she does not exhibit what they claim at home and in other public settings. She might be exhibiting those behaviors in the classroom alone. Still, I agree that medication isn’t the way to go without testing.

      If your child says she can’t hear the teacher, ask that she be seated at the front of the classroom.

    • Marianne says

      Must be in Michigan I do not understand the person writing stating don’t label, as though the kids with special needs should just muttle through. In college without an IeP hurts students that need help. College is then over. You need disability services and there are laws to protect you from the school giving out a label. Lawsuit immediately. This is getting your child to be able to perform in life fairly and if we are allowing the threat of should you, no absolutely use the services for kids that struggle. Awful to feel guilty for needing services, awful for schools to start a roll of behavioral allegations against a child. Especially when it’s affecting more than one student. I will sue them and it is happening currently to mine. I would go to the Supreme Court this game of ousting special education kids needs addressed in a court of law. Any teacher or administrator involved should be labeled as abusive toward a child. It’s happening too often and when they use the power of a social worker when disabled child the school needs to be held accountable. That’s our tax dollars not the administrator to rid her plate of teaching a child with a disability. Complaints should not be filed because of pairing with a disability. That is abuse period. So to the mother above, I am so sorry it’s very dirty that the CPS plays at all and also should be held accountable.

  4. Timberly says

    This article didn’t provide much help fro me as I am at a loss and feel as though my son will never be a part of a general education class. Age wise he is supposed to be in “5th” grade and my major concern is what do I have to do to get him back into a regular classroom. He has been in special education since 1st grade. Since then he has been between 3 schools due to us moving and I don’t think he’s making any progress to be able to learn among his peers as they only teach what he’s “capable” of doing and not challenging him. He never has any homework and I worry how that will effect him when he gets to high school. This year he’s been granted ESY so I’m hopeful he’ll be able to catch up but it will take a tremendous amount of work on both our parts. When is the appropriate time to have him reevaluated? Should it be done by the school or outside resources?

    • Varda Epstein says

      I think the main issue with mainstreaming your son is the lack of continuity. You’ve had to move so many times. That is probably the biggest obstacle to mainstreaming your boy.

      In terms of when he should be reevaluated, it’s impossible to say based on the information you’ve provided. You don’t even say when he was last evaluated. The right thing to do is to consult with your son’s school psychologist.

  5. Jane Blegen says

    The diagnostic term ‘mental retardation’ is finally being eliminated in the upcoming international classifications of diseases and disorders. replacing mental retardation with intellectual developmental disorders.
    Please change this in your article and any references in the future.

    • Kars4kids says

      You’re absolutely right, Jane. Thanks for pointing this out. This writer is no longer writing for the blog, but I edited the post to reflect current standards.

  6. Mike says

    I was put in special Education back in the 90’s because public schools want to label you and they need to fill a quota with these classes. Does this make any sense? My family moved to a new state, they skipped me a grade and of course I was behind at first but I did catch up. It was too late because I was stuck in special Ed and they don’t want you to move up. I would tell any parent don’t allow your kid to fall into the trap because it does damage your self confidence and it holds you back.

  7. Alex says

    Mike, your scenario paralleled my own. For so many years, I thought of myself as less capable than other students because that’s what I was told since kindergarten (about the time my parents were going through a divorce) since I had ADD. Since Special Ed was so easy for me, I became trapped in a program that only allowed for my boredom and frustration. I was so determined to receive a better education that I would study math books meant for gifted students outside of class. By 10th grade, I had to switch schools to be removed from special ed so I could stop being bullied and receive a more challenging education that could lead to better preparation for college.
    Immediately, I was receiving better grades in advanced and mainstream classes. After I took the SATs, I was shocked! I achieved almost a perfect score, which enabled a great education at a very competitive college and I excelled there, as well. At that point, I finally realized that everything they told me about my capability was in fact, false. Now, I am very successful compared to my peers, who bullied me in school for being “different” when I was segregated from the mainstream classes. I definitely would say that Special Education was not right for me and has contributed to a lot of social ineptitude that I am still dealing with in my 30s. I am amazed that people like me don’t have a voice within our educational system, who are desperately pointing out its littered fallacies. I hope that people can see that those with slight learning disabilities do not all fit the bill for a much slower paced class and this leads to more harm than good in the long term.

    • Rose says

      I have a daughter who is 11 and stuggles with reading and language arts. She is reading at a 4th grade level and is in 6th grade. Math is great and science is good. How do I help her with reading better so I can get her off of the IEP. I dont think its helping her I think its holding her back., Its not challenging enough for her and I fear its keeping her back two grades. She can read, she just reads slow. Any advice?

  8. J.Carr says

    My thoughts exactly. The public school yet again want to put my normal 14 year old boy in special education. Now does he make all A’s no. He most likely works at a slower pace but the work still gets turned in . Putting my son in Special Education will only label him and lower his self esteem. Can’t the School just put him in s normal class with children that work at the same level but they are not in Special Education ?

    • Sinta says

      My son is 14 years old and labeled Intellectual Disability of Grade 2. Everytime we are in an IEP meeting , the self contained classroom is always considered the solution. Everytime my well natured son is placed in a self contained he get physically abused by his classmate. All his teachers agree that my son is not a discipline problem and is a very nice mannered boy. After 4 school experiences of being physically abused, the school finally succombed to our request for him to be placed mainstream and he has not had any issues on abuse since then. The last time was when a boy was placed on a one to one watch by a Teacher Assistant to safeguard my son, but he was still able to bypass the TA and hit my son.
      Now we are transitioning to High School and once again, the IEP team is suggesting self contained which they carefully termed “10 students of the same cognitive level as your son and Gen Ed students come to assist”. under Applied Studies.

      Parents definitely have to be outspoken. All schools have told us their school is different, that we have to give them a chance, that that is where will get the most benefit and there is no evidence of violence in their school…well the HS Principal is pretty much telling me exactly what all the other 4 schools have told us. I do not believe teachers are so evil that they purposely place students where they can get hurt but unfortunately for my son he had to experience it about 4 times in 4 different schools to finally give in to our request for Maintstream. Some students in those “special self contained classrooms” are beyond their control and in the end it is up to us as Parents to stand up and tell the schools, sorry but No, No thank you. Enough is enough.

      • Varda Epstein says

        This is the perfect example of why parents need to be proactive and sometimes keep kids from going into special ed. Your son sounds like such a nice boy! I hope things work out in high school and that he both learns a lot and stays safe!

  9. Emmanuelle Willis says

    My 11y/o son has been struggling, I think out of boredom. He has a slight speech impediment & he responds well with correction. His grades fluctuate, but the school district sees that I’m proactive & seek results, rather than just giving up & placing him in special ed. I do not feel this is the best solution. He gets a 40% then can get an 80% on his test.
    This happened with his adult sibling was in the 8th grade. This same school district tested my eldest son for a learning disability-or whatever the label was, & his results were that he’s working @ college level. In the end, I was told that my son was bored. He’s extremely bright as a grown man.
    What do I do about correcting my 11y/o son? I feel that both of my sons are learning the same way, but I don’t need this school on my back. Sometimes I feel they’re trying to reach a quota, or trying to use school funding. I want the best for my son, like all parents, & don’t want to feel defensive & overprotective. I will assist within reason. Any suggestions??

    • Jessica says

      I have a similar situation. My son was evaluated for Dyslexia in the third grade. Up until the 7th grade he was receiving 504 accommodations and enrolled in a Dyslexia class. Now he is 13 and the school is saying they think he needs to be evaluated for Special Ed. He is passing all of his classes and often gets 90 – 100 on tests but he struggles with writing and spelling. The school is saying he is receiving far more support then the average student and they are afraid without the support he would not be getting through school at all. He goes to math tutoring every morning for an hour and tutoring in the evenings on Thursday nights. He has little homework because he is able to get it done at school, but the support they are providing is obviously to much for them to handle if they want him to be evaluated at this level. It is so hard as a parent to see your child struggle and be labeled. He is doesn’t exhibit behaviors that would suggest he is struggling more then the average student besides the fact he has always had issues with spelling. Is this really a reason to believe he needs to be in Special Ed classes? In this day and age can we not find an alternate solution until something with him clicks. I am afraid what this means for him.

  10. rose says

    I have a real bad experience with special ed so thanks for the support
    just a few questions
    i have to kids with learning problems and some other issues( maybe social ) and more
    they go to a special school although they are regular kids and understand they don’t belong there and beg to stay in regular school their self esteem is surely shattered (how could they learn with so much stress?)
    they did get better last year because I did tons of alternative. school takes credit for themselves but I know it’s from what i did because progress was right after treatment
    special ed and therapy is just free babysitting
    but i want to know is it legal not to give them special ed , speech therapy , or ot if professional teacher says they need it

  11. rose says

    I have a real bad experience with special ed so thanks for the support
    just a few questions
    cps is down my back (because of other reason)

  12. AG says

    My daughter has been in a regular class and is pulled for math and reading. Her scores has not increased much and now they want to put her in a self contained class next year but and want to test her when they already have the results. I will not put her in that situation but will try every tutor I can afford. Her teacher said she works too slow. My child self-esteem is low because she had to battle bullies with little or no help from school officials. Now its her fault. Apparently what the school is doing isn’t working since she is not advance. She can learn. As her general education teacher told me, “she is not a special education teacher”. That told me she will not get the help she needs in her ge class. My daughter is now in the 5th grade, born with a rare syndrome, and I had to fight the school to do an iep from K-2 grade so I hold them accountable for not listening to me. She will not go into a self contained class to cover themselves. School is about the “funding” theses days. Sad.

    • Varda Epstein says

      Good for you for doing everything in your power to help your child!! Keep up the good fight.

  13. Michelle says

    My 4 yr old son has a significant speech/language delay but no other signs of Autism spectrum or other developmental issues. His other milestones are on target with the exception of things that pertain to speech/language. I am paying for private speech therapy out of pocket. I will not release his Birth to 3 records to the school. He is in preK this year, and I did not want school to have a pre-conceived notion of my son. He entered preK as a young 4 yr old, completely potty trained, he shows empathy towards other kids, knows alphabet, can count to 20, etc. I have been pressured by countless people to “go get him evaluated”. I work in mental health (adults) and I feel like if you get things “evaluated” enough, you will eventually end up with a diagnosis whether or not you deserve one. At home, I love him and play to his strengths. I hope my husband and I are doing the right things by him. I so do not want him labeled. If public school cannot handle this, then we can explore private schools or even homeschool.

    • Varda Epstein says

      You’re a wise mom who is able and willing to put in the extra time or pay to give your child the extra help he might need. But for those moms who don’t have the time or energy to work with their kids, or pay someone else to do so, an evaluation and diagnosis can help them to get the help they need.

  14. Brenda says

    I decided to send my 4 year old daughter to speech therapy as I believe that she has a problem with pronouncing words correctly. I have been paying out of pocket for the speech therapy. Her doctor never recommended it. I did. But now, it’s getting costly and I was informed that I can get her evaluated for speech therapy through our school district and it doesn’t cost anything. The problem that I’m having is that my district calls this “special ed”. I don’t like that word. When I was a kid, special ed was a “slow class” and I was told that she would be in her regular kindergarten class and pulled out for a half hour for her speech session. Should I be worried about “opening a can of worms” or should I continue on my own with her speech therapy? Any suggestions?

    • Varda Epstein says

      It sounds like it’s just an evaluation, which is a good thing. You want to know if there’s really a problem. You want to know the nature of that problem and what therapies are recommended. Perhaps you should ask if you must accept any recommendations that are made. It seems like being in “special ed” would only apply if your daughter ends up receiving therapies within the system (as opposed to you continuing to pay for therapy on your own). I’d inquire and consider their response in your decision, if you are worried about her being labeled.

      The other suggestion I have for you is to realize that just as you are paying for speech therapy, you can pay to have her evaluated. Then you avoid the entire issue. Maybe. Because it may be your daughter needs other therapies and you just don’t know it (yet). In that case, you’d have to have her evaluated once more within the system, in order to get all the therapies covered.

    • SchoolPsych says

      Hi Brenda!
      I work as a part of a school’s evaluation team and this is a common concern that I see. Many parents are worried about the label of special education because many years ago, special ed meant something different. I usually share with parents that special education covers a range of learning and/or developmental disorders. It’s is true that it includes students with learning disabilities or cognitive processing issues, but it also includes students with speech difficulties, vision issues, and hearing issues. In fact, in the state where I work, even services for gifted students fall under the umbrella of special ed. I think as school employees, we need to work harder to share with families that special education has indeed evolved and is no longer just a “slow class”.

      One more thing, regarding speech services, the range of support covered in private speech services may be different from the range covered by school speech services. Private therapists can address any concern they identify during therapy. School-based therapists often only address concerns that have a direct impact at school. So this is something you may want to consider when making the decision about whether to go the private route or the school route.

  15. Maggie says

    My son is currently in pre-k (will be in K this September ) , We just got him evaluated because teacher brought up a concern that he is not focused during circle time , often time the teacher needs to sit with him before he can do the assignment, otherwise, he will neither scribble or not doing anything. The result from evaluation shows he is having delay in speech and other areas. We are a bilingual family, so the language barrier probably also play the role in his delay. Base on what I learned from the teacher that if there is no progress before he goes to K, it’s likely that they may put him in a special class. I am worried and do not wish for him to be in a special class setting, so I started googling online for the pros and cons of being in special class. My question is special class setting consider “special ed”( I assume it is) , will my son be better off to be in regular class setting and can I request to put him in regular class? He is currently also receiving PT and OT, I am thinking about cancelling PT service ,because I don’t want him to be pulled out of class everyday . Please share your thoughts and suggestions. Thank you

    • Varda Epstein says

      It does sound as though a special class setting is the same thing as “special ed.”
      Once your child is placed in a special ed category, it will be difficult to get him moved back into a regular classroom.
      There is no way for me to know if your son would be better off in a regular classroom based on the information you provide.
      If you can afford to pay for private PT, that is an option that would prevent him being pulled out of class. You could do the private PT outside of school hours. Other than this small piece of advice, I’d suggest you follow the general tips and advice in this article. If he makes progress, you might be able to avoid that special ed label, but if not, you may have to give in.

  16. Elizabeth says

    Hello, I have a few questions. Currently my daughter is in 4th grade. She is dyslexic and has been in 504 since 2nd grade. She has been struggling with math and grammer. She states that her math teacher speaks so fast while he’s teaching and does not go over with her if she has additional questions. I had asked him if she could be in tutoring after school and he stated that she was already getting pulled out by other teachers during her recess or PE time for about 15-30 minutes, but I do not feel like that helps because they do not go over what he tought in class. My daughter has failing grades and often gets grades for completing the assignment from 0 to a 50. This seems to be happening in most of her classes. She has not passed any of her STAAR tests. She knows how to read. She speaks well and is a very bright child. Often times acts even older that her actual age. Last year during the end of the school year I was told by the principal that if I did not decide to have her evaluated for Special Education services she would be retained. Therefore I agreed. This school year which its almost at the end 2 weeks left of school. I am asked to sign a Consent for full and individual evaluation. I am afraid that this would not be a good fit for her and feel forced to go this route. I don’t think that she would benefit from being retained either. I feel like she is not getting all the accommodations that she would be getting. PLEASE help before I sign this consent. I feel like the school prioritized students that have the possibility of passing the STAAR and give all their attention to them so the school does not get a low percentage and have to close down .

    • Varda Epstein says

      It sounds like you need to tell the principal, everything you said here in this forum: the math teacher speaks too fast, the amount of tutoring she is receiving is not enough and not on the material learned in class, she’s bright, and that you’re afraid she’ll be labeled if you agree to an evaluation for special ed services. Ask him to instead put her ahead, but ensure she receives adequate and appropriate tutoring and teachers who speak slowly enough for her to keep up. I think if you are firm, it may make a difference.

  17. Ashley Johnson says

    I thought that it made sense when you said that one thing to consider looking into when your child needs help with their education is to look at previous test scores and feedback from the teacher to make sure that they are receiving positive commentary about improving. I have been thinking about enrolling my child in public school but I have been worried that they will not excel due to the pressures of their environment. I would be sure to talk with the teacher if they were struggling in classes to ensure that they are receiving positive reinforcement from the teachers.

  18. Benny Nguyen says

    Most people can agree that a lot of people were diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. I was diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning Autism with Asperger syndrome. I was sent to special ed, but I eventually quit because the standards were way too easy. Nowadays, I plan to take AP US History. The point is don’t always get easy things. Try getting out of your comfort zone. Though challenging yourself is hard, it does help you get ready for society as a civilized adult.

    • Varda Epstein says

      I love what you say here, Benny. In fact, I’d love to conduct an interview with you. You may just hear from me, soon.

  19. cindy chillington says

    My daughter has been in special education sense the 2nd grade now in the 6th grade and in middle school my husband and I are having a hard time with the school pulling her from a regular education math class and putting her in the resource room she is on grade level but needs extended time the other kids in the special ed room are below her level so she sits at a table by herself and does her work alone. She also gets pulled for reading she is behind she works on a computer program which this special education class is the only class she is failing confused? we have been told that she goes to slow on the computer so that is why she is failing because she is behind on the software I am still trying to figure this out my husband and I feel like she is getting further behind and it will be harder to get her to catch up.

    • Love Faith says

      Thank God I found this post! I have been stressed this past few days because the school told me that my daughter will need to take the IEP “Special Education” and when I received the application letter asking for my permission my gut and my mother’s instinct in me says don’t sign it! I keep searching and reading articles about IEP. She a healthy and very kind as the teacher describes her.They told me that her reading level is below her reading grade level and she’s having difficulty in Math but her behavior and social are excellent! We are a bilingual family so the language barrier probably also play a role ih her reading.I want to get her a tutor and see from there if there will be any changes..I want to explore some other methods and not the IEP. Please advise! Thank you so much!

  20. Grad student says

    I am a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology and I do not agree at all with this article. Why keep children from getting the resources or modifications they need? No professional would diagnose a child as “special needs” unless the child actually needed this modification within the classroom. Testing for diagnosis or an IEP would not be conducted unless the teachers or professionals saw a problem or delay in the classroom with the child. All an IEP does is giving that child the assistance they need to learn and ensures they are getting this assistance in every class and every setting in the school. A label is meaningless as long as your child is getting the help they need to learn. There is nothing wrong with requiring a little extra help/assistance or modifications within the classroom or with class material. By withholding help from your child, you hold your child back more than the label. If you broke your leg and went to the doctor they would give you a crutch after giving you a diagnosis of a broken leg. Imagine saying the broken leg “labeled” your child, and the crutch is too embarrassing to allow them to use?

  21. Karl Nielsen says

    Special education for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADD/ADHD is the wrong thing to do all together. Placement into a system that has such a spectrum of wildly different disabilities places your child at a higher risk of complications in learning and emotional growth. You must weigh the effects of mainstreaming them compared to placement into a over burdened and under professionally staffed / qualified, caring people. I am the effect of the 1970’s Mass special education disaster. I was abused for 13 years in this system never to be diagnosed or treated for the learning disability I have “Dyslexia” I was diagnosed at 42 years old. I have struggled my whole life with self-esteem issues, Attempted suicide, Anger issues, Unable to hold jobs for very long, Child abuse, Bulling, Being a Bully. I finally with my diagnosis found relief and peace that is was not my fault. I was not the problem I was the victim in a wild crazy society hell bent on giving everything a label at any cost. Think twice and then think twice again before you ever put your child in the hands of people that you can not verify or validate the training and the day to day treatment of your child. You only get one chance with them please make it well informed

  22. Anonymous says

    I came across my old middle school year book and found an encouraging comment from a teacher who liked me. This teacher’s comment was under the category “special education” and it reminded me I spent a few years in separate classes from my fellow classmates because I didn’t conform. Fast forward today more than 25 years, I have leapfrogged all my old classmates in terms of both income and net worth. I will never forget the time that I wasted in those classes and the trouble I had to overcome to get where I am now. Being in those classes was almost catastrophic for me. If you kid is insubordinate or doesn’t like doing homework, that isn’t “special education”. The people who don’t conform to the rules end up making their own.