Mr. D Needs Your Help, AGAIN! – Calling all Special Education Teachers, Social workers, school psychologists, etc.

Even though I’ve been in the education racket for a while now, the beast that is special education still baffles me.  Just thinking about the process makes me want to slit my wrists with an overdue IEP.

Today’s post is more personal in nature than usual, and I could use the help of anyone in the Special Ed. field.  My cousin has a young son who is turning three, and he’s as cute as can be.  He’s also a precocious lad, getting his little mitts on anything with bells, whistles and especially buttons–that boy is a beast with a remote. 

Well, my cousin (the kid’s mom) was concerned that this kid was not that verbal at this point.  She has the child in speech therapy under a program for kids until age 3, and the boy is progressing.  He mimicks words said by others, although his articulation isn’t quite there yet (then again, he’s only two, but we’ll talk about that later).  At a dinner, the boy’s mom asked me about how to research schools that could cater to his needs, and also about what services the child is entitled to receive.   I replied that it would be difficult to know what he needs until an evaluation is conducted.  We discussed forms and things and left it at that.

Yet I still had questions that needed to be resolved–this is where you come in.  First of all, the boy’s speech therapist says it may be difficult to place him in support programs in his area (Nassau County, Long Island, New York) because he does not suffer a cognitive disorder, simply a speech deficiency.  Is this necessarily true?  I agree that my little cousin (he technically isn’t a nephew, is he?) has no problems with cognition or understanding.  Yet I’m not sure if simply having a problem with speech is an impediment.

My second question concerns the Individualized Education Plan, the infamous IEP.  Although I have a general gist of how the IEP writing process works, in terms of evaluation, diagnosis, conferencing, etc., I’m a little in the dark about the parental rights and responsibilities regarding the IEP.  What rights do parents have with creating, revising, and especially access to the IEP if the child is going to another school?

Lastly, and this may be a dig at my cousin, how verbal should a child be approaching age 3?  Is there a benchmark that should be reached?  In short, is my cousin paranoid or batshit insane for subjecting her child to therapy intervention in the first place?  I ask this because in my years in the classroom, I’ve seen children who were never verbal for years suddenly open up at age 7, 8 or even 10 or 11.  Then again, I’ve also seen kids who are just never verbal, for various reasons.  It would be good to know if a benchmark or an assessment exists to see if his speech is “at level” or not.

I’m a big believer in the individual development of children.  Everybody grows and learns at different rates.  This is why I have these concerns about my little dude.  Any help with this from my educator friends in the Neighborhood would be much appreciated. 

And here’s a sweetener: all who help out will get tickets to a Jonas Brothers concert, or a link on this blog and a subsequent mention in a post, whatever’s available.  How’s that for free pubicity 🙂


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4 responses to “Mr. D Needs Your Help, AGAIN! – Calling all Special Education Teachers, Social workers, school psychologists, etc.

  1. claire golden


    Lina sent me the link to the post because i’m in a phd program for school psych. the short answer is, yes, there are milestones you should be looking for. by age three he should be using two- and three-word phrases to express himself. mimicking is great, that means he CAN make the sounds and articulation does take time to develop sometimes.

    He should probably have a formal evaluation because speech and language work can really help later on. you don’t want him getting delayed and frustrated because he can’t make himself understood. you are right though, kids definitely develop at different rates, but extra help is not going to make things worse.

    that being said, i’m definitely not a professional.

    good luck!

  2. Lina

    Just thought I’d throw this in to get the conversation going and to add some “data”…

    Something else one should know about this situation is that this family (my cousin, her husband, and the paternal grandmother) is predominantly Spanish-speaking. Our cousin’s son is receiving speech therapy in Spanish because she wants to raise him bi-lingual.

    Personally, I think that this may be complicating things. Spanish words tend to have many more syllables than English words. This issue was investigated when Spanish-speakers were found to consistently have lower IQ scores than English-speakers, even when using Spanish language tests. These tests are usually timed and given the fact that multi-syllabic words take longer to say, the scores are lower. Seconds make a big difference in this kind of evaluation. Granted, Spanish is more phonetic, making it easier to spell, however English, in many cases, can be simpler conceptually. For example, “apple sauce” in Spanish is “salsa de manzana”, or sauce of apple(s). If he’s truly delayed in speech output skills, which I think is true, than they should consider focusing on one language, perhaps the simpler one like English, just to get him going–especially since he is living in the U.S. One language is better than no language. That’s just my working hypothesis.

    As for how involved parents can be in developing the IEP, my experience is limited to the L.A. public school system. Here, they can be quite involved and can have a neuropsychological evaluation of their own included. They are also invited to help develop the plan of action.

    As for milestones, by 18 months, kids are usually saying 8 to 10 words and by 2 years, they can typically string 2-word sentences like “more cookie.” From this point on, a child’s vocabulary increases rapidly once they make that connection that words represent things and ideas. Our cousin’s child says a couple of actual words. Instead, he make crude noises and sounds, almost as substitutes for words, and gestures a lot. I agree with my brother that he appears to comprehend most things. He responds appropriately to questions and can mimic the the behaviors of adults. There’s just severely minimal language output.

  3. I have no expertise on the subject and so prob. shouldn’t say anything. But when has that ever stopped me?

    1) Your cousin’s child is your cousin once-removed. The “x-removed” phrasing indicates family relations that are of different generations. If he has kids someday, they will be your cousins twice-removed, and so on.

    2) As a historian, I’m sure you know that Albert Einstein was famously language delayed. So perhaps one thing to consider is getting the tyke a copy of Newton’s Principia and letting him go wild…

    Not to make light, just to point out that guidelines and the like are always generalities and any real-world distribution will have outliers.

    Good luck to all!

  4. Pingback: Thanks to the Neighborhood! Re: 5/07 « Mr. D’s Neighborhood

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