Evaluations and Discipline

Florida doesn’t diagnose anything in its evaluations; it only assigns students to services based on the kind of learning difficulties they have. Huge numbers of students make it all the way to the Disability Services offices of college campuses and still don’t know what their disability is–only that they “have trouble reading” or “can’t do math very well” and they know nothing of dyslexia or dyscalculia.

Children with behavioral problems are left undiagnosed when medications are needed and their symptoms often are not met with any kind intentions of educating the child to better behavior.  Instead, under uninformed or sometimes willfully ignorant principals and school staff, some children are punished and given suspensions until their learning opportunity has been destroyed.  Rather than seek to understand and help these students, the attitude is “there are rules that must be enforced.”  In the absence of a diagnosis, school staff may feel justified in claiming every inappropriate behavior must be willful and therefore merits punishment.

Granted, there must be discipline in classrooms.  We would be wise to remember that one of the original definitions of the word “discipline” is “training,” not “punishment.”  The appropriate case management for behavior problems is to have a diagnosis and develop understanding of why the inappropriate behaviors occur.  With this understanding, we can teach the student how to engage in appropriate behaviors instead.

To get a diagnosis in a state that does not diagnose, after the psychometric evaluation by the school district is finished and is obviously incomplete, parents must write a letter to the school principal to request an Independent Educational Evaluation–an IEE–which is conducted by non-school staff and paid for by the school district.  With a diagnosis, strategies for teaching appropriate behaviors become evident.

Those diagnosis-based strategies should become part of the IEP or 504 Plan.

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