My daughter didn’t need an IEP, my daughter needed me!

small girl seriousLet me tell you about our journey, our struggle, and our unusual solution.

At the age of six my daughter had already been expelled from two preschools for aggressive behavior.  She also had picked up three diagnoses:  ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder.  We finally got her into the public preschool at our local elementary school where they were legally bound to keep her in the program. She then transitioned to the kindergarten in the classroom next door. We decided not to opt for medication based on our own experiences. Instead, we tried holistic approaches, natural remedies, allergy testing, and other therapies. Nothing helped enough to keep her in line in school.

As the diagnostic testing was being done, she was accepted into our local charter school which was supposed to be the best one around. And in some ways it was. They provided a lot of interest-led learning opportunities and offered a well-rounded arts education.

No matter how many accommodations we put into place through her IEP, she was still unable to have safe behavior in school. She was putting herself, other children and adults at risk. It was affecting her self-esteem and she started to become anxious and depressed.  In second grade, she ended up with two teachers — one who was brand new and another who was retiring. The teachers couldn’t handle her behavior, which grew worse as Christmas break approached. As their frustration grew and tempers shortened, they began publicly humiliating her, even harshly scolding her in front of the whole class! Once, the older teacher asked my daughter’s best friend “Do you want to be friends with someone who acts like that?” while my daughter was standing there.

Near the end of second grade, the school proposed a 45 day evaluation at a behavioral based program. As a special education advocate and former family partner at a CBHI wraparound program, I knew that this was not the answer for my daughter. She was in behavioral after school and summer programs and it only exacerbated the problem. She does better with typical children who set high standards and expectations for her.

At that point I was desperate. I spoke to a friend who was homeschooling and after copious amounts of research we decided to spend the summer as part of the homeschooling community. We went to field trips, social get-togethers, and other events, tried out different curriculums, etc… She had her difficult moments on field trips, but I was there to help her get through them. She had her days where she couldn’t absorb curriculum in the morning, but I was available to save it for the afternoon. Now that is an individualized education plan!

We found my daughter was about a year ahead of her 3rd grade classmates and started using 4th grade curriculum which interested her. Her anxiety level significantly dropped which improved her behavior greatly. My anxiety decreased because I don’t get those midday phone calls from the principal.  Best of all… she was happy!!! Her confidence and self-esteem soared! She made new, more appropriate friends. And the other parents were so understanding of children with different needs!

We decided in the fall to continue with homeschooling. The services on her IEP would continue to be provided by the local school. She would be eligible to continue her occupational therapy services and I could have consults with the special education teacher and behaviorist.  But a few months into the school year we realized we didn’t need them anymore! It’s nice to know that with the IEP still in place, if she is in need of services they will be available.

Homeschooling is a great option for many children with mental health issues. Just the lack of social and academic pressure from school has amazing effects!  You need no teaching or special license. You would be surprised to learn that a whole day’s worth of curriculum at the early elementary level fits into about 2 to 3 hours when it is one on one at home!  And there are many online and virtual schools if high school seems intimidating. The key is, talk to other homeschoolers to see if it’s right for you. Try it out for the summer. Join a Facebook group like New England Happy Homeschoolers.

Adrienne McDougall is our guest blogger.  Some days she is advocating for her daughter and her clients while other days she drives hot rods and sings songs in her band.  She hopes that sharing her experiences will help other parents.

3 thoughts on “My daughter didn’t need an IEP, my daughter needed me!

  1. Although this may not be an option for all families due to economic necessity, this could be an effective option for certain families. It worked for your daughter and the reasons you mentioned sound like they would apply to many families. It’s wonderful that homeschooling is currently more common and there is more formal support for it via groups and activities. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Bravo, Adrienne! I was pleased to see your name on this blog, don’t know if you remember me, we were at Massasoit together. Your story was eye-opening to me. Thanks so much.

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