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Do we let them fail?


StacyS
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My daughter is 15. Her diagnosis are ADHD/SPD/GAD.  She has had an IEP for OHI since 1st grade. Her current goals are math and adaptive behavior (planning/prioritizing, task completion, impulse control and appropriate interactions with peers).  The IEP also has as many of the age appropriate accommodations for high school (extra time on tests, quiet place to test, alternate testing methods, headphones for noise reduction, speech to text, and more). The problem: she is currently failing two classes. 

Last semester I - for lack of a better phrase - pushed and prodded her to get a C in science. Getting her to do any home work at home was like pulling teeth. When she did study for a test it was the absolute minimum and only when practically forced. Her science teacher said it wasn’t that she didn’t know the material. When they talked about topics being assessed, my girl would talk about what she knew and the teacher could see she understood it.  No one could figure out why she couldn’t show it on a test.  The school said that if it looked like she would fail, they would only “count” the scores for the standards she absolutely had to have. I told them I didn’t want them to do that until we figure out if it’s a problem with work refusal/lack of effort or something else.

At the start of second semester we agreed to let her try without me (or her teacher) prodding her to do her homework or study every night.  We told her if she didn’t want to do work at home, she had to get it done at school.  That worked for a few weeks; she seemed to get things done at school. Then she started failing tests.  Then she failed a project (they broke it down into smaller pieces and gave her extra time/extended the deadline). She blamed them for not doing those things.  She refuses(d) to study at home. She won’t(wouldn’t) study with a friend. She says she can’t remember things like before even though she’s putting in no effort to memorize things.

I decided to breakdown the steps of what it means to “study/do the work” and then created essentially a reward chart.  I mentioned off hand that she could also stay after school if she wanted or walk to the local library to do homework.  To my surprise she started staying after school to get it done. But, she still fails tests.

At this point, her SpecEd teacher thinks we have two choices:  

“1 - Start jumping in so we can help and make sure she passes this quarter (ends in a couple weeks)

2 - Let things ride out and see if she still can learn from this (in other words, let her actually fail instead of threatening it)

When I consider long term, I see option 2 as the best route. That being said, it's still very possible that the connection won't be made. But we won't give her the chance to use it as a possible learning moment if we don't let the learning moment play out.”

Given her IEP goals, and given she’s starting to take small steps towards the kinds of behaviors we all know need to happen to bring her grade up, I cannot help but think the solution is somewhere in the middle. I’m at a loss to identify that middle ground solution.  I’ve asked my daughter directly “how can we help”.  She doesn’t know but then says things like “I don’t care if I fail” or “it’s not my fault” or “I’m just dumb” or “My memory doesn’t work right” and then its tears.  

What else can we try? 

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Have you talked with her pediatrician about this to get their thoughts? What are the grades like in other classes? What are her plans for after high school?

You mentioned that she gets accommodations, but what specially designed instruction is she getting to help her learn material? 504s list accommodations, but with an IEP, she should receive SDI in needed areas. How is the school teaching her how to learn material?

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17 hours ago, Jenna said:

Have you talked with her pediatrician about this to get their thoughts? What are the grades like in other classes? What are her plans for after high school?

You mentioned that she gets accommodations, but what specially designed instruction is she getting to help her learn material? 504s list accommodations, but with an IEP, she should receive SDI in needed areas. How is the school teaching her how to learn material?

No we have not discussed it with him. As for her SDI I have no clue what they are teaching her.  Frankly I get the feeling it is the absolute bare minimum if there is anything beyond a five minute check in.  

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There are strategies that teachers can teach to help students do better with paying attention and remembering what they will be tested on.  For example, as you read something, you need to ask yourself:  Do I have a grasp on what the author is saying?  If the answer is no, you need to reread, ask for help, look up the topic in a different book/website that might explain it in a way that clicks or whatever works for you.  They way you are breaking things out might not be the way that makes things click for her.  (BTW, there are skills kids should be taught early on in school - like before 3rd grade.  It's something to do at any age when it comes to reading for comprehension and reviewing for a test.)

If she doesn't know and practice these strategies, they can be SDI in her IEP.

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My experience is that schools provide accommodations, but SDI is often lacking.  What does the brief weekly check in look like? What skills are learned? The district should be sending you at least quarterly reports of progress monitoring for IEP goals.

I agree with JSD24. Also, if the pediatrician is not aware of the learning difficulties, it may be worth a conversation with them so the doc can decide if there could be anything going on medically interfering with learning.

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He is aware of her struggles. He’s been her doctor since birth.  He is simply not aware of her current work refusal/avoidance behaviors.

After reviewing the email traffic between me and the SpecEd teacher, and having a conversation with our daughter, my husband believes the root cause is fear and a lack of confidence.  Neither of which will improve with letting her fail a class. 

We had an emergency IEP meeting today. I expressed my concerns.  I’ve seen examples of her work; it’s not an ability problem. I’ve seen examples of how they have used some of her accommodations (breaking large assignments apart, giving her extra time, given her guided notetaking forms) so it isn’t for lack of appropriate accommodations (or so it seems).

I asked them to begin progress monitoring her on the steps within “task completion” i.e., taking notes in class, homework completed and homework turned in.  I also asked that they do the same for her “planning and prioritizing” goal:  list full assignment name in planner, list due date in planner, make flash cards (or similar) for use while studying for a test, etc.   This data will be collected for two weeks (I will be monitoring it too).  If nothing changes in that time, they will do another BREIF or CEFI in each class and maybe bring in a behavior specialist.

I then asked for a list of all incomplete assignments as well as a list of any assessments she can “reassess.  

The SpecEd teacher thinks she needs to not be “rescued” from failing a class.  We feel - again - there is a step between “letting her fail” and “rescuing her from consequences”.  We agreed that a consequence for stubbornly refusing to do the work may be in order; a “behavior referral” to see the principal (whom she trusts and respects).  To that end, she meets with the principal & SpecEd teacher in the morning where they will outline what a behavioral referral means. 

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