And here comes the next step in the battle...

lovehadleyAugust 7, 2009

DH has been working very hard to get SS to be able to repeat 1st grade.

When he and BM initially went to court when SS was finishing kindergarten, the GAL told BM she needed to re-enroll him in kindergarten again in her district. BM flipped her wig about it and said under no circumstances would her child repeat a grade. (BM repeated 4th grade herself and still struggled academcially all through school, and has terrible memories of going to the resource room and being made fun of.) One would think that she wouldn't want her child to experience the same things, but BM has taken the opposite position---that SS is fine, doesn't need to do this, etc.

So she pulled a fast one on DH and the GAL and put him in 1st grade in her district, anyway. The GAL was annoyed but there was nothing that could really be done about it.

Well, SS had an even worse year in 1st than he did in kindergarten. His final report card this past June said he is not meeting grade level expectations in reading and math. He got a bunch of satisfactories in other areas, and in behavior/conduct areas, he mostly got not meeting expectations. :( I am SURE that a lot of this is in part to the stress he's been under, and the court stuff that's been swirling over his head, etc.

and now he is getting ready to start his THIRD SCHOOL in THREE YEARS and Dh just feels (as do I ) that he badly needs this gift of time. He needs a FRESH start, a chance to feel confident in himself and his abilities. As a result of struggling in school for two years, he pretty much hates school. DH would so love to see him flourish and be confident and be happy in school.

So--DH had him evaluated by the new school---the counselor met with him, as did the 2nd grade teacher. They are recommending that he repeat 1st. This district is a better, more challenging district than his old one, and the school counselor said verbatim "not to be snobby, but we feel our curriculum is more challenging and he's not going to be prepared for it."

Unfortunately, the school cannot MANDATE that he repeat 1st, they can only recommend it. DH is all for it, and we are praying BM will agree---but Dh broached the subject a few weeks ago when he started the eval. process and she pretty much said over her dead body.

I don't understand her mentality about it at all. SS is small for his age, so he would blend right into a 1st grade class. His 1st grade teacher from last year described him as being comparable in maturity to a "young kindergartener." He struggles academically. He is just NOT ready for 2nd grade. He has been through soooo much emotionally, and it would be so great to see him be able to have some time to adjust and be ahead of the game, rather than behind.

The school counselor is going to speak w/his mom and try to convince her that this is a good choice for him. BUT if she doesn't agree---DH is stumped as to what he will do. They have joint legal custody, and I don't know that DH can legally hold him back without BM's agreement. Probably time to put a call into the attorney.

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Just wondering here...
If DH can't legally hold him back without BM's consent, how can BM push him forward without DH's consent?

My oldest brother repeated grade one (he's dyslexic) and it was the best thing that happened to him in his scholastic career.
If SS is going to repeat a grade, it needs to be NOW, early on, before he falls behind. Plus, starting at a new school is the best time to repeat a grade - he has to make new friends anyways, so it's not like repeating is going to be socially awkward for him.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 1:04PM
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"If DH can't legally hold him back without BM's consent, how can BM push him forward without DH's consent? "

Because she is not changing anything, she is going with status quo.

SS is age-appropriate to continue on to 2nd grade. If he were to continue on to 2nd grade, this would not be changing anything.

BM could not, for example, have him skip ahead a grade without DH's agreement; but basically---if both parents do not agree, things stay status quo.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 1:36PM
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Not long ago, I watched a Judge give sole legal to a father because the mother refused to go along with what was best for the child in school. He wanted to put the child into a program the school recommended and mom refused, court gave sole legal to dad since mom is not going along with best decisions for the child. I think it is significant if the school itself is recommending he repeat 2nd grade.

Joint legal is so the parents can make decisions together in the best interest of the child. Since dad is residential parent, he should make the call with the school's recommendation (if the school will allow it) and let BM take DH to court to fight it. Let her explain to a Judge why it's in SS's best interests... the court does not care about how BM feels, only what's best for their son.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 2:56PM
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This is heart braking. Where I live, if the grade the child should be in is under question, the parents go with the younger grade. There are virtually no downsides to the younger grade, only upsides. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 3:13PM
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Of course you're right Hadley, for all of the reasons you already mentioned.
Not that BM's point is without merit -- Studies show that students who are help back but NOT given remedial tutoring or other special attention do not usually just catch up. And when that happens, BM's experience is pretty typical.
But there are so many factors that argue for your SS's being the exception to that rule -- A change in schools, small stature, immaturity. And the best excuse in the world (which we also used with our son when we held him back) -- "You're switching to a new school, and they don't teach the same things as the old school, so what you learned there won't be the same..."

I'd get letters! Lots of letters from his old teachers, principal, counselor, the person who did the testing at the new school, the old GAL. It may help to draft a form letter and give it to them so if they do not want to take the time to write their own, they can simply say "I agree" and send it in.

The other really, really important point is the issue of remediation. Because without special assistance, your SS IS likely to experience problems from being held back. (Well, either way.) If you can get him through first grade successfully -- in Reading and Math in particular -- he'll be SO much better off. You already know that of course...

See if there are any good dyslexia programs in your area. Finding (and working) the right program can make such a difference for a kid! My younger son went from an upper- 1st grade reading level at age 11 to a 5th-6th grade reading level in just over two years once we found the right program. (The third we tried, in addition to home-work and special schools.) Depending on how severe your SS's reading issues are and on his attention level and emotional maturity, you may or may not need 'the big guns' -- but I'd search out the best program I could find and work it religiously. The consequences of not curing early reading deficits are far-reaching...

Here is a link that might be useful: Family Literacy

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 4:12PM
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So if bm went against you and the GAL and did not have ss repeat a grade and nothing happened to her why can't dh register his son to repeat a grade?? SS is going to school in your district so dh has to register him anyways...right?

If it were me I would register him for 1st grade again and I would also look into some type of tutoring or program to help him catch up. I would also get all kinds of documentation from every professional who agrees that this decision is in his best interests.

Then let bm take you to court to try to change this.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 4:54PM
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Mom2emall is absolutely right.
Just sign him up for 1st grade and make BM try to change it!

There are times to ask for 'permission' and try to work it out in advance, and times to stonewall and do what you know is best for SS.
I wouldn't even CONSULT her on this anymore - you know her opinion and aren't about to change her mind.
Disclaimer - That's NOT my normal strategy, and does not reflect my 'generic' advice for stepmoms.

But I say this having spent YEARS arguing with Ex about older son's educational needs and reading issues (gifted, dyslexic, ADHD) Every time I tried to get DS help and he knew what I wanted to do, he blocked it. Went to the Dr. to expressly forbid ADHD med's, threatening litigation. (DS recently turned 18 and put himself back on ADHD meds for college -- Said he didn't think he'd be able to concentrate well enough without them.) Went to schools trying to block testing for dyslexia. (Agreed only after a year of mediation, then denied results when they confirmed diagnosis.)

Meh! Just do the right thing by SS and tell BM to stay away from you.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 8:03PM
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I think DH will do exactly that!

We were talking about this late last night and DH pretty much said the same thing----let her take me to court if she doesn't like it.

As far as finding SS someone to work with, I think we are going to have my mom's 1st cousin evaluate him. She has her masters in Special Education and has taught/tutored at a private school for children with special learning needs for almost 30 years. We'd like to get an idea of what she thinks his *issues* might be. I used to think he had an LD but I am kind of not thinking so anymore. I really think it's more to do with the fact that he is less mature than his peers---which I know will catch up in time---and then all the drama that's gone on.

But we will see----on one hand, I know DH hopes that there is no diagnosis, that it IS just maturity/confidence, etc. BUT on the other hand, it would also be nice to find a specific reason for this stuff and be able to have a definitive solution to help him.

At the very least, tutoring is a great option. I have my B.S in Early Childhood Ed and I tutor part-time, and I have tried working w/him, but it doesn't seem to go well. He gets frustrated and angry very easily and it seems our relationship is too close for me to take on the role of teacher/tutor. He is the same way when DH tries to help him. I think a more neutral person would be ideal.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 11:23AM
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why wouldn't you ask his school to evaluate him? It costs you nothing and if you make a request, they are obligated to test him. Just holding him back won't help. If he is not at a grade level, he most certainly has some limitations and they need to be addressed NOW.

Although your cousin has masters in Spec.Ed., she might not have all the resources. She might be able to give him achievement test (if she has access to it) but it is very unlikely that she has access to IQ testing. Unless he is given both tests, you won't get any comprehensive result at all. IQ tests are given by psychologists. If you don't want his school to be involved, find private psycologist, get IQ testing done. then your cousin can compare her testing results to IQ scores etc.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 10:03AM
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They already did ask the school to evalutate him, but I assume what you mean is a more thorough evaluaiton. I think that is good idea -- just make it clear that you agree with their conclusiont, but you may have to convince other parant, and also, they should focus on does SS need any special services. Good luck.

'So--DH had him evaluated by the new school---the counselor met with him, as did the 2nd grade teacher. They are recommending that he repeat 1st. This district is a better, more challenging district than his old one, and the school counselor said verbatim "not to be snobby, but we feel our curriculum is more challenging and he's not going to be prepared for it."

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 10:47AM
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" it is very unlikely that she has access to IQ testing."

Actually, FD, she does. The school she works at is an extremely specialized environment for children with different learning needs. It begins in 2nd grade and goes through 10th grade. The reason it does not begin until 2nd grade is because there has to be a significant gap between a child's IQ and their test scores before the school will consider them for admission. This gap generally occurs over the first couple years of a child's school career---most kids are not diagnosed with LDs until at least 2nd grade.

My cousin has plenty of resources. This school is actually a nationally sought out one for kids with LDs. They also have a requirement that a child's IQ HAS to be over a certain number. Most of their students are actually highly gifted, they just struggle with learning disabilities. The goal of the school is to mainstream them as quickly as possible---the school's tuition for the lower grades starts at 30K a year, so most people want to get their children in and out! The average stay at the school is 3 years.

Anyway, my point is, my cousin is an excellent person to begin testing with. And we will do that this fall, but we might wait to see how SS's year begins. If he starts struggling right from the start, even with repeating 1st, we will get him evaluated through my cousin promptly.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 10:56AM
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LH, your cousin may be the most qualified person on the face of the earth, but if this becomes a battle, in or out of court, with SS's mom, she could be regarded as biased. I think you are entitled to more than a session with a GC at school for ss, and should ask for it. Peace.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 11:30AM
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I see what you're saying.

We'll just have to wait and see how he does with school these first couple months. If he really struggles again, we'll get a further eval.

But my gut (which may or may not be correct) is that it's really just a maturity/confidence issue. I can't really explain it other than to say SS acts very young. I think a lot of this is why he's not particularly interested in school. He is more focused on wanting to play, etc. (some of this could be that he's a boy, too.) But when I see him other boys his age, or I'm around other boys, I am struck by how much younger he seems. He loves, loves to play with Littlest Pet Shops---it was kind of cute a few yrs ago, but now it's something he gets made fun of at school for, but it doesn't seem to bother him. He is also obsessed with little pocket-sized stuffed animals---he names them, he puts them to bed every night, always has to carry a few in his pocket, he cries if he ever loses one, etc. He sucks his thumb a LOT during the day, etc, to the point where is teacher last year mentioned it at a conference and suggested BM/DH work on getting to at least just be a night-time habit.

I am not saying there is anything *wrong* with him or trying to be critical AT ALL b/c I think there are a multitude of reasons for his young-ness, much of which focuses on his mom's drinking, court drama, etc. :( He has been through too much. :( But there is just no denying the fact that he behaves like a much younger child than he is. Many, many people comment on this--everyone from my mom to his aunt on his mom's side (who is a kindergarten teacher) to friends of ours, etc. It's just kind of one of those factual observations.

THIS is a lot of why DH and I both feel he would really benefit from staying back and getting a chance to be the oldest in the class---he is already at the younger end age-wise, and definitely behavior-wise. If he could have a chance to be AHEAD of the game, or at least on par with the other kids, that would be great. I think his confidence would drastically improve if he felt good about himself in school, and I think if his confidence improves, his interest in school and learning will blossom.

I realize staying back might not be the *magic solution* and might need to be coupled with tutoring or other options but I think it's worth a shot before jumping to LD testing, etc.

I also am fairly confident that this will not wind up in court, either. BM just doesn't have the money and I don't forsee them having the money to file a motion to modify. The two times BM and DH have gone to court, it's always been initiated by DH.

Unless BM's situation drastically changes (doubtful) I don't see her having $1500-$2000 sitting around to take DH back to court.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 11:47AM
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How lucky you are to have access to testing through your cousin! And I'd definitely pursue it --

But FD's suggestion to have the school test is good as well, because putting a child in special ed. or providing special services costs the school a lot of money. And as such, they will be unlikely to simply accept your cousin's test results and pony up the services... They'll have to test anyway, and it takes a while, so you might as well get the ball rolling.

Unfortunately, many schools have strategies in place to 'not qualify' kids for special education (including extra tutoring or dyslexia remediation) in all but the most clear-cut cases, and this tendency does not correlate with the overall quality of the school. In fact, many 'excellent' schools have a very lop-sided focus toward the gifted high-achievers (who bring up those test scores!) at the expense of the LD kids (who cost so much money).

I'm not saying this is the case at your school -- Obviously, I have no way of knowing. But be aware that it might be, and use your cousin's advice as a neutral counter to the school's position, which sadly, may have its own biases.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 11:48AM
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"But FD's suggestion to have the school test is good as well"

The school already did evaluate him as much as possible now and recommended he re-do 1st grade. I am sure if he has more issues this year, they will recommend further testing.

" In fact, many 'excellent' schools have a very lop-sided focus toward the gifted high-achievers (who bring up those test scores!) at the expense of the LD kids (who cost so much money)."

It is interesting you said this because our district district recently cut funding significantly for the gifted program ( which has actually caused one child from DD's old preschool leave the district and enroll in the private school where DD goes.) While people with kids in the gifted program are understandably upset, the reason for the cut in funding is to focus on the bottom 50% of students and to be able to put more resources there. SO that will be good for SS because it means there are even more resources to help him catch up academically.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 11:53AM
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"The school already did evaluate him as much as possible now"

So you already have 20+ pages of standardized test results? (WIPSI, WISC III, Kaufman, etc.) Because if they did a "Comprehensive Individual Assessment" as required by Federal law to properly assess for possible learning disabilities, that is what you'd have. Or did the school simply tell you they'd evaluated him? A few conversations with the counselor, some placement tests, work samples, teacher observation and evaluations. Because the latter approach is NOT sufficient to conclude that a child does or does not have learning disabilities. (Ask your cousin.)

"I am sure if he has more issues this year, they will recommend further testing."

I'd like to believe this is true, but have learned the hard way that it simply isn't. (Again, ask your cousin.)

The public school system is exactly that -- a SYSTEM. A system designed to efficiently process a high volume of children through an educational program designed to benefit the majority of them. And as such, it's really pretty good. Truly. For the typical child with average intelligence who learns in the typical fashion. But put in a child who doesn't fit the pattern -- one who learns in a different way, who learns more slowly, who needs a different approach or 'fill-in' knowledge or skills. The public school system simply isn't designed for the needs of those children.

I know I sound like I'm over-reacting. But talk to any involved parent of a child in Special Education and you will hear the same advice. If you passively wait for the school to initiate testing or to remediate problems, you will wait for many heartbreaking years. (Look at BioMom's school experience!)

The school is NOT your enemy, and while it may sound like I view them that way, I genuinely don't. But you can't afford to rely on them to do anything other than 'the system' for your SS either. Your SS will get only as good an education as you through assertive involvement) insure that he gets.

And extra assertiveness for these next two years will pay off BIG. If his reading and math issues are minor, you'll be able to CURE them in two years. If they're not minor, getting him good help early can head off a whole cycle of failure.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 1:02PM
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love, i didn't mean your cousin doesn't know what she is doing or that she has no access at her job. Having access to testing materials at work is not the same as taking them home and testing your relatives. I personally do not have access to IQ testing. I am not talking what her school has access to, but what she has access to personally to take home and test your child.

If SS's school already evaluated him, then why do you say you don't know what is wrong with your SS and why does your cousin need to test him? I was under impression that he was not evaluated.

meeting wiht the counsellor and 2nd garde teachers is not comprehensive evaluation. You know he is not perforimng, I assume you want to know why. You won't be able to, unless comprehensive evaluaton is done either at school or by private evaluators.

I also want to warn you that testing your family members is very far from objective neutral testing. Also if you want to show results to anyone including BM or lawyers or any other interested party, cousin's testing results would be considered biased.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 1:53PM
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"If SS's school already evaluated him, then why do you say you don't know what is wrong with your SS and why does your cousin need to test him"

FD, he was evaluated by the school to see if he should be placed in 1st or 2nd grade. He has NOT been evaluated for any kind of LD.

We were talking about having my cousin do a more comprehensive eval. at her school should he continue to struggle, even with being held back a year.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 2:04PM
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LH, please do not wait. If you ask the school for a complete eval, my understanding (is this a public school?), they are required to provide it. Yes, be polite, etc. but you can not afford to wait to identify issues.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 3:28PM
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I see, love.

If he is already behind then I agree with kkny, one should not wait. On the other hand sometimes some kids are a bit behind but then catch up. But you never know, it is dangerous to wait, if teachers think he is not ready for 2nd grade then it is pretty serious. i would request evaluation now (by school), don't wait. and if you are saying BM struggled in is usually hereditary, don't wait.

yes schools required to provide it. within 30 schools days in our state, might be different in yours but it is always rather quick and free.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 3:44PM
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I normally wouldn't advocate the "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission" approach since this is what happened to my DH and it has caused a lot of pain.

BUT this is vastly different. Evidently BM is okay with this approach since she did it before. Since all other people involved from teachers to judges agree he needs to be held back, I would say just enroll him and worry about the arguement later. That way it's done and she can't argue.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:37PM
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Ashley, I agree, but I would still get as thorough an eval as the school will give.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 4:41PM
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I'm saying the same thing as KKNY and FD -- Ask for an official evaluation, and do it now to get the clock ticking.

Below is the text of a sample letter from a parent to the principal of an elemantary school requesting that the school conduct a 'Comprehensive Individual Assessment' designed to detect learning disabilities. Once the school receives this letter, they have the legal obligation to act on it and set up testing -- until this point, from a legal standpoint, NOTHING has happened. While the letter sounds a bit formal and legalese, it is important that you don't change it to 'nice it up', because the legalese tone is also an important part of the message.

June 4, 2008

Dear Ms. Jones: (Principal)

I am the mother of Jane Doe (student). My child is having problems with her schoolwork. Please give her a complete comprehensive individual assessment to see if she has a disability and whether she needs special education and
related services. I understand that the written report of the assessment must be completed within 60 calendar days of the date of this referral. I will consider the date on which you receive this letter as the date of referral.

Thank you for your help. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Mary Doe
(555)123-4567 work
(555)123-9876 home

cc: John Smith (teacher)
Mary Johnson (school psychologist or counselor)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 6:30PM
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I wonder if dad needs mom's permission for testing since they share custody. Or is it unnecessary? If he would be the only CP, then it would be different. I guess, don't know.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:38AM
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