Category Archives: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

IEP and 504 Plan Help

It’s that time of the year!

IEP time, that is!

If your child is in public school and receives special education services, then it is time to address needed accommodations and supports for the new year.  Often, as children grow and become pre-teens and teens, more and more accommodations are needed while previous supports are at times less necessary.  And suddenly, school begins, kids are in new classrooms, grades, even schools, with new teachers, peers, and schedules.  And you needed the new accommodations yesterday!

If you think you need a new IEP and the school hasn’t suggested one, and if you have had an IEP meeting within the past 12 months, then you need to write a request to your district and ask for an update.  Always put all IEP and special education requests, questions, and information in WRITING!  The school must respond and the WV Department of Education’s Special Education, A Parent’s Advocacy Guide to Special Education (click on the green text to read it or download your own!), states:

“If you believe your child is not progressing satisfactorily or that there is a problem with the current IEP, you can request an IEP team meeting. The district is required to grant any reasonable request for such a meeting.”

At this update IEP meeting, ask for evidence of how your child is responding to the previously established goals, and if possible, produce evidence that your child is not progressing.  (remember get it all in writing!)  If you have new evaluations of your child’s special needs or disabilities, be sure to have written evidence as well.  I encourage parents to have ideas ahead of time to include in this updated IEP:  suggest breaks from bustle if your child is becoming overwhelmed at school, for example, or suggest a small study group format for your child who needs interaction to learn.  You know your child best and so be ready to state what you want!

If schools turn down a request for an update, which they do despite the WV guidelines, then you can request a new re-evaluation of your child’s eligibility.  Schools can not refuse evaluation requests.  However, unless you have an outside evaluation, the same team members will do the new evaluation, so having new evidence from outside professionals is a best step.  Since many WV school districts are denying autism diagnoses in their IEP evaluations, contacting us at WHOLE Families for evaluation, or contacting other reputable autism agencies for evaluations, is a good idea.

However, we have certainly worked with school districts who still deny new IEP accommodations or an IEP altogether!  The schools can claim that your child’s diagnosis does not impact their education, even when they school is claiming your child has behavioral problems.  When this happens, you can immediately demand a 504 plan.

504 plans have no special education placement, but they do provide accommodations to ensure that children with disabilities get a full and appropriate public education.  If noise and bustle bother your child, that means they should get a 504 plan to provide quiet and calm so your child can learn.  If your child struggles to write in homework assignments, classroom work, or to take notes, then requesting a laptop for notes and homework can be put into a 504 plan to ensure your child can learn.  If your child gets overwhelmed at school and can’t concentrate, then a 504 plan can address the need for breaks and quiet so your child can learn.  Parents don’t get to approve the 504 plan as they do an IEP, but if parents see that the 504 plan does not assist their child to full accommodation in the school, then the parent can complain.  Schools can not deny children with special needs access to education.

And that is what I tell parents to think about.  A 504 plan is like a wheelchair ramp for a child with a mobility disability.  Schools can not build their doors in such a way that a child in a wheelchair can not get into class. Likewise, schools can not deny children with sensory or social issues in school a break or quiet space, because that is equivalent to not providing a wheelchair ramp.  Breaks, quiet space, extra time, these are access accommodations.  Schools by law can not deny them.

An IEP is a specialized individual education plan.  It should include course modifications (allowing students to do math in their head, should they prefer, instead of writing it out as teachers ask, or reading Pokemon books for book report time instead of the teacher’s choice), homework modifications (allowing students to do more or less homework, homework on a typewriter or laptop, homework that the students choose instead of the teacher), and broad curriculum adjustments (Headsprout reading on computers instead of the traditional curriculum, or Renzulli Learning modules instead of the regular text).  An IEP can include time in a special education class, time in a regular class, or both.  And an IEP must include all access accommodations of a 504 plan:  if your child needs a laptop in class as part of an IEP that does not mean your child also doesn’t get needed breaks.

Unfortunately, at WHOLE Families, we get asked into school special education procedures when the school district has broken down, the child isn’t doing well, and families are at their wit’s end.  So we see many districts denying 504 accommodations (illegally) and refusing basic curriculum modifications.  We’ve seen districts lose IEP plans and call out the police on students with 504 plans.

If you feel your district is not doing what is best for your child, then we urge you to contact help.  We do independent evaluations, meet with districts, attend 504 and IEP meetings, and participate with area social services and courts.  As written in previous posts, West Virginia’s treatment of special needs children is currently under investigation by the US Department of Justice for violating the rights of WV children, so now is a particularly hard time for families trying to get school support for children with special needs.  So get outside help!

Unfortunately, waiting to see if a limited 504 plan or small IEP is enough for your child puts you and your child at risk.  Instead of making basic and simple accommodations, too many WV schools are shipping children out of state to residential schools or sending children to juvenile detention.  If you are seeing increasing hostility or blame cast onto your child, then you need to act.

A super statewide resource is the West Virginia Parent Training and Information Project  (click on green text to go their website).  Supported by the US Department of Education, which oversees the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which governs IEP process, the staff at WV Parent Training and Information Project can be helpful – if nothing else but to tell you that yes your district is behaving illegally.  Call them at 304 -624- 1436!  And…

take their online survey about your experiences with IEP and 504 plans in your district here:

Many families we meet have a lot to say about their districts!  Add your voice!

And if you need support, give us a call.  All children in the United States deserve a free and appropriate public education.  We have helped lots of families find creative solutions that help their whole family enjoy learning and enjoy life.  Childhood is a magical time.  We want to help you enjoy it.


The Oppositional Defiant Disorder trap: how schools and doctors ignore autism

ODD Diagnoses are a cover-up for bad interventions.


Across the state of West Virginia, we are working with wonderful children and teens with autism diagnoses, who, when stressed and angry, act out in intense ways.

Schools, doctors and other clinicians are labeling these children with ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder – instead of recognizing that these are kids on the autism spectrum, and that one defining feature of autism is struggling with communication.  For the higher functioning kids and teens, this struggle can mean not knowing how to communicate in the healthiest ways when upset or in stress!  (and how many of us communicate well when stressed????)  Sadly, teachers, administrators, and other clinicians start punishing stressed kids and teens, making the problem worse.  Stressed kids on the autism spectrum need SUPPORT, not punishment.

When your child or teen on the autism spectrum starts mouthing off, this is a sign of stress…  and your child or teen needs your help (or a teacher’s help) calming down.  At school, we highly recommend frequent time-out breaks for all ages:  for younger students this can be time in the classroom quiet area (which you can demand your classrooms include), and for teens we recommend a quiet break to re-group reading or online in the media center (put frequent breaks into your IEP).  At home, mouthiness is a sign your child or teen needs rest – a break from people and chores or homework, an earlier bed, a chance to unwind.  Think about time online, time reading books, time with arts and crafts or Minecraft.

The worst thing to do with a teen or child on the spectrum who is winding up and getting more upset is to confront and challenge them!  This is when things get out of hand – parents start making threats they can’t enforce; schools start threatening detention and expulsion; clinicians start suggesting meds or more restrictive environments.  If you are an adult and you find yourself getting upset and angry with your kid on the spectrum, then this is a sign that things are out of hand and since you are the adult YOU NEED TO BACK OFF.

If we want our children of any age to learn to be flexible people, then we ourselves need to meet their stress with flexibility.  Let your child finish a chore later; let your child unwind with a netflix video; give everyone a break from homework and come back to it – together – later.  And if schools can’t be flexible, it may be time for you as parent to demand another IEP meeting.

Oppositional defiance disorder is no excuse for adults who can’t support people with autism diagnoses  – whether that human is four years old or sixteen.  Parents need to stand up for their children and teens, and create safe spaces so kids on the autism spectrum get the room to grow and thrive and learn just like everyone else.

Watch out of ODD diagnoses.  If you need interventions, and your school or doctor is refusing to work with you, GET HELP.  Find a clinician or teacher who is trained in positive behavioral supports and get an ally for you and your child.  Build more family quiet time into your day, and get an IEP that supports your child.  Children and teens on the autism spectrum need help learning how to communicate effectively.  If they aren’t getting that help, don’t let professionals use any diagnostic label to cover up the real interventions your child needs.

We have worked with families and schools around West Virginia, helping classrooms include appropriate quiet areas and getting mandatory breaks for students, as well as helping families build stress-busting activities into their day.  If you need help, please contact us; we wanna support you and your family.