There are many reasons why school professionals
may find themselves at odds with the family of the child who is not
doing well at school. We have seen this many times: very little progress,
poor behavior, lots of issues and diagnoses - it's quite obvious for
the parents that the school is not really helping. Where to go from
this point on?
Dr. Gindis answers this question for one specific family, but
the answers may be applicable to many others.
Case description (from the
Our daughter was adopted from Russia 2 years ago and has a host of diagnostic
impressions including FASD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (institutionalized)
which might I add the pediatrician and school professionals seem to
disagree with. Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, Phonological
Disorder, PTSD, Multiple Motor and Sensory Dyspraxias, Low-Average-Borderline
Intellectual Functioning...the list goes on. We had her evaluated by
a neuropsychologist. After attending school
conference to re-evaluate her current school program, it was very clear
that the school team was not on the same page as my husband and I. As
if the diagnostic impressions that were made along with the many school
recommendations that were provided were not valid.
Dr. Gindis answers:
We do not have a team of FASD specialists for international adoptees
in your state yet, but it does not mean that you have to wait for anything:
the earlier you begin remediation of your daughter - the better are
the outcomes. There are several things that you need to do:
Find out why the school is not on the same page with
· Is the school in disagreement with the diagnoses? The majority
of medical and mental health professionals would not accept the diagnosis
of Institutional Autism (see my article Institutional Autism In Children
Adopted Internationally: Myth Or Reality?
What sometime is called "institutional autism," in reality
is a temporary institutional behavior, or real autism, or a symptom
of another recognized mental health issue. If your pediatrician denies
autism, it does not pay to insist on it, as "institutional autism"
label does not lead you to any school-based services.
· Is the staff overwhelmed by the amount of diagnoses
and does not trust them? Its more productive to separate the leading
cause of the overall disability and concentrate on treating it: the
idea is, first of all, make the child available for the remedial efforts
which may otherwise have no effect. For. ex.: if the child's anxiety
is overwhelming, taking steps to reduce it will allow to work on memory,
language problems, etc. after that.
· Are the recommended remedial methodologies, placement
and services structured and applicable to school environment? If the
school is requested to do 2 dozen things at once, they will not be able
to provide an appropriate intensity of the remedial efforts and they
can't monitor the progress. The remedial goals have to be clear-cut
· Are the findings of your neuropsychologist substantiated
enough - beyond a reasonable doubt, so to say? Sometimes
schools do not cooperate because they are looking for the proof that
all these conditions are education related and presented to them in
a school-palatable language.
· Does the school reject the needs for remediation
for your daughter based on the legal loopholes?
The answers to these questions will point out at the
right strategy and the right professionals you need to employ for your
team. Meanwhile ask the school for the prior written notice
the document where they have to explain their position in writing
If you are in doubt about what the problem with the school is and where
to go from there, a second opinion on the psychological assessment
report and the validity of the school response can be requested
from an independent psychologist.