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How can I get the A in FAPE?

Julie Cole


Hello, I am seeking insight to a legal question to understand what kind of ground I have to stand on.  My son, Matthew, has Hyperlexia, but is not on the autism spectrum. He qualifies for services under SLI, OHI, and AUT. Think gestalt language learner, pragmatic and receptive language challenges. 

Matthew is a 6th grader (middle school) and has ELA and Math offered in a "directed" setting --taught by ed specialist, smaller class size, slower pace, grade level standards, accommodated. He's THRIVING. Independent, keeping up, managing assignments, completing work---doing it all with very little home help. His other 2 core academic classes, Science and Social Science, are only offered (district wide) in a collaborative setting --Gen Ed teacher, roaming aide, full class size, regular pace ----it's too much for him--too much input too fast. He entered as Accommodated and we moved to Modified in October to alleviate the anxiety (started seeing sensory things we had not seen in years). It's far from ideal knowing he is capable of getting his HS diploma.  The district offers Directed classes for all academic courses in High School. They just don't offer for Science and Social Science in Middle School. 

My question is this--can we force their hand legally to fill in this gap for my son who needs these offerings to be in his most appropriate setting?  I have met with district leadership and continued communications with them since October. I have been told they are implementing a "3 year plan" to addressing inconsistencies in offerings at the Middle School level. Middle school is just 3 years, so by the time they are done, it won't help my son. The school team is working with what they have but it's just placing bandaids on the issue and nothing is getting solved.

Thank you for any insight  you can provide,

Julie https://twemoji.maxcdn.com/2/72x72/1f642.png 

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Hi Julie.  Since you used the word "legal" twice, I feel the need to preface my response with the disclosure that this site does not provide legal advice, and I do not personally give legal advice on this site.

Having said that... I would start with telling the school (in a nice way) that while you understand that they are working on this gap, that it not a viable reason under the IDEA for not providing specialized instruction for which your son qualifies.  If the IEP team has decided that Directed classes are needed for ALL of your son's courses, they shouldn't be able to pick and choose in which classes they are provided.  An exception might be if your son was only showing low scores/data/grades in math and ELA and didn't show a need in Social Studies and Science.  But that doesn't seem to be the case here.  If it were, you would need to show the data (standardized tests, grades - they're not really data, but if he's getting C's and D's in Social Studies and Science and A's and B's in math and ELA, it would be relevant) that he is falling behind due to not receiving the specialized instruction that he needs.  Also, it makes no sense if the need is related to his disability and ability to learn and NOT his inability to learn in a specific class(es).  The fact that they've already discusses him being in Directed classes in all academic courses in high school is additional proof that the team feels he needs this in all classes.  Finally, if you feel you don't have enough data, ask for an IEE with observation in class, that will hopefully come back showing he is unable to keep up in the gen ed classroom setting.

If the school district already agrees he needs Directed classes for Social Studies and Science  but say they "can't" provide it, they need to think outside the box.  "Can't" is unacceptable if the need is there.  They could hire another special education teacher - even just part-time if that would be enough.  They could assign (and hire, if needed) a 1:1 para.  At a minimum, they need to be providing him with pre-teaching and post-teaching of the curriculum in these two classes to help him keep up.  If what they try doesn't work, then they need to try something else.

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