174: Securing the School Accommodations & Services Your Child Deserves, with Liz Capone

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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One of the most challenging aspects of raising a neurodivergent child is school and learning. In the U.S., our schools are built on a compliance and conformity model, which is a huge barrier to success for kids who learn differently and are behind their peers in skills and development. That’s why it’s crucial that parents understand their child’s learning needs and the accommodations and services they are entitled to. 

In this episode, I’m talking with former special education teacher and advocate, Liz Capone, about IEPs, 504 plans, and how to work with your child’s school to ensure that your child has what they need at school to learn and show mastery.


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My Guest


Liz Capone, M.S. is a Special Education Advocate and Expert Witness that works with attorneys and parents nationally. She is a former Special Education teacher with 21 years of experience that has taught every grade, pre-K through 12.



Liz Capone 0:03

Parents really are to be the respected sort of reservoir of information and data on their child. And I think we need to flip the narrative a little bit and have that conversation and acknowledge the power and the knowledge that parents do possess.

Penny Williams 0:22

Welcome to The Parenting ADHD podcast, where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD a Holic and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm really excited today to be talking to Liz Capone, about securing the school accommodations and services that your child needs and deserves. What sort of plans are possible to secure those combinations? What accommodations might work for your child, and other really insider tips on these processes and procedures to help you to help your kid while they're at school, and help them learn in the ways that they learn best? Thanks so much for spending some time with us. Liz, will you start by sharing a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you do?

Liz Capone 1:31

Sure, thank you for having me today is such a relevant topic. And it's, very, very important to know from a parent's perspective what is going on every day in their child's classroom. I am a certified special educator by training. I am currently an educational advocate and expert witness. I had done this work about 20 years ago for just under two years, and then I returned to the classroom. I've taught various grade levels, while I've taught all grade levels, actually pre K through 12. I've taught in six school systems. I've been an IEP coordinators, specialist, team leader, and several years into my special ed career, I learned that I had ADHD. So that gave me kind of an AHA perspective also, that I have brought both to the classroom setting and to the setting where I assist parents and attorneys.

Penny Williams 2:24

Yeah, you have some inside perspective for sure on that. And that can be so helpful for families. I want to start first by just saying that, what we're going to talk about is going to be mostly specific to the United States, because we have people listening all over the world. So when we talk about IEP and 504 plans, those are specific to the US. But you may have something that is similar where you live. And I think that a lot of this conversation will still apply to you. So I hope that you will still continue to listen as well. But I wanted to make sure that you recognize that some of the terminology that we're using, and the laws that we might reference in this conversation are going to be specific to the United States. So let's start I think was with what is a 504 plan? And what is an IEP?

Liz Capone 3:15

Sure, sure. And I was very lucky to be trained back in my master's degree by somebody who was having us read the actual regulations. And I encourage parents to, when they're hearing about section 504, of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, or their hearing about individualized education programs, to really also read that original language, the original laws and the original regulations. But section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act applies not only to schools, it applies to entities that accept federal funding. And it's very interesting, who qualifies. And there's a I would say there's more misinformation out there are about five oh fours, that the law clearly states it's for someone who has a physical or mental impairment. And that impairment interferes impacts one or more major life activity. Now that could look different in different settings with different people. That's what the law says and 504 plans, although there's not a finite list of okay, what could or couldn't be offered a student, typically, for the most part, for a student who needs accommodations and supports but has not qualified as a student with an educational disability. That doesn't mean that there aren't places or settings where a student for whatever reason has both. And that does not also mean in some instances and sort of overlapping that a student who has an IEP also has some of the legal protections, if not all the legal protections as someone who has a section 504 plan for an Individualized Education Program, the federal government It has said that we have to look at whether or not the student has an educational disability, and the impact of that disability to qualify them as a student who is eligible for special education services?

Penny Williams 5:15

And what does that process look like? So my student is struggling in school, we may have a diagnosis of ADHD or autism or a specific learning disability, or we may not, what does a parent do starting out? To find out what their child qualifies for?

Liz Capone 5:32

It's really interesting, because you hear a lot of misinformation about who to contact, how to contact them, how much do I tell them? Do I have to hand them my report? What do I do? What don't I do? It's interesting. In many schools, the case manager responsibilities for ensuring section 504 plans are completed and implemented and you know, distributed to the appropriate parties, is not the same person, often as the people with a specific task of ensuring that a student has the opportunity to go through the process of determining special education eligibility or not. So often, someone could go into the main office and say, who do I contact about this or that, and it could be very often to different people. So you know, finding out first of all, who do I who do I contact to kind of streamline the process.

And I recommend people always, I'm sure you've said this, to put things in writing absolutely as concise as possible, copy people you think would be appropriate. And follow up with that because people do go on maternity leave, you know, people do get transferred to another school, that counselor, when you're out there was with a counselor, she was in a car accident, she was out suddenly, and people are going who's going to do miss so and so's job. So really, you want to make sure you are following up to make sure that process starts and who's responsible, and you know, assume good intentions. Initially, if something you know, you didn't hear back within like 24 hours or whatever, it may take a few days for them to route that request to the correct person for you to get a response.

Penny Williams 7:14

Yeah, I always copied the principal, the school principal, because I knew that they would direct me in the right place if I needed further direction. So it was always good for us. Of course, everybody's experience is different, and every school is different, but they tend to know their staff and what their role is. So that can be really helpful sometimes when you can't find that information out in an easier way. So you submit something in writing to this coordinator, or the special education staff, and you saying my child is having a hard time with XY and Z, and what I would like them to be evaluated for accommodations or services.

Liz Capone 7:57

The way I recommend wording, it is, I would like to request a meeting with the appropriate staff members to determine what services and supports the child is entitled to under the law. And that kind of covers both, because you're not running around saying, hey, excuse me, I think my child needs a section 504 plan or excuse me, I would like to have a meeting where the qualified examiner's are present, and they're discussing whether or not we're going to proceed with testing. That way. You could have that meeting initially saying what's going on with your child, maybe there was outside testing, maybe there wasn't, maybe the school psychologist would be the person who is going to do some scales to determine Does your child have the, again, we're not so much looking at, you're trying to go in there and get them a medical diagnosis from the school staff, you're trying to see if they qualify as a student with an educational disability.

And I try to be very clear with parents about that. Because if you have an IEP that says a student has been found eligible as a student with an educational disability of other health impaired with ADHD, you wouldn't necessarily take that to a pharmacy and say, Oh, my child gets medication. Excellent. That's just an example of saying that's not a piece of medical paperwork. And I think there's confusion, because it's the same language as a clinician, a psychiatrist or a neurologist or somebody who would give you the medical diagnosis of ADHD. I think parents do get confused. And they think sort of one size fits all if they have one. It automatically goes both ways. I think there is some confusion about that. And not just for the educational disability category of Other health impairment. I think that that occurs for parents with other disability, category considerations. That's been my experience.

Penny Williams 9:53

It's a really confusing process and confusing law and I've find that the more parents I talked to, the more different it is from location to location. Yes, I coach parents and there'll be saying, Okay, we have an IA in the classroom, and they have a bomb wall like three acronym, class and their schedule and, and I'm clueless as to what they're talking about, even though I had a kid who was in special education for 12 years, 13 years, because it's so different everywhere. And I think that causes a lot of confusion too, because when parents are looking for help, or they're looking for other parents who have maybe been through it, it still isn't always that helpful, because it's so different from location to location. So I think it's really important for parents to understand that too.

Liz Capone 10:45

I find it's fascinating. And I am kind of like a regulation nerd, like, I love to go on line and read different documents. I've just always been that way. But I find it fascinating to just go online and just look at a couple different states, like I have clients right now in different states. So I will make sure I'm familiar with the procedural safeguards, which are online free of charge, literally available for anybody to, do a search engine search and look at okay, yes, in Texas, they call the meetings ARDS when I first started in Maryland, that's how some of the meetings were referred to. And then I'm like, I think it's Connecticut. It's PPT meetings, it's really interesting, what's common and what's not. And I look at certain things, I look at age of developmental disability, that range that can be this number of years, and it stops at this age in one state and literally the next state over it's different. Yeah, how much notification before an IEP meeting for documents varies. seclusion, restraint, and exclusion, one of the big hot topics, which is a very serious concern right now, and a lot of places, again, different states are looking at that. So it's really interesting, sort of the overlay of Ida and section 504. And then what they do, and don't allow the states to sort of implement differently, but I totally agree with you, it's so confusing to say, okay, that's called a dedicated eight, even in one county within a certain state, and then two counties over it's called close adult supervision or whatever, it's very interesting. So it's, of course, it's going to be confusing to parents, because it's confusing to people who are certified to implement these IPs.

Penny Williams 12:33

Right, right. People who do this all day every day. Yeah. So I think, part of the process is you have to read up on it, at least a little bit. And you have to look at what your state is doing. What are the recommendations? What do they call certain things and ask if they send home a letter, and it says, we're going to have a XYZ meeting, and you don't know what that means, ask, it's okay to ask because most of us don't know what it means until you are falling headfirst into it right, and you're thrust into that process, you're not going to know what it means. It's just not something that we learn if we don't have a kid who, who needs accommodations or services. So definitely be open to asking those questions and looking for that information.

Because I think the more that you understand the process, as a parent, the better advocate, you can be for your child, you'll then know what they're kind of entitled to. Because so often, I think even schools and teachers or specific staff members, don't always even really understand what kids are entitled to, and can make it really tough. You know, like I said, my son's finished school, but we had so many different people running meetings and managing his case, and all these things right over the years. And it was constantly different. And people even within the same county, all the way through his schooling, didn't have the same sort of knowledge about ID EA or IEP s or five oh fours or even, like different disabilities and accommodations that are needed. So we really have to take, I think, a more active role as parents typically, or to hire an advocate like you'd help us understand and get through that process.

Liz Capone 14:19

It's interesting. Also, unfortunately, what I've seen, I saw this both when I was still in the public schools, and also I was in private schools. And as a person helping clients is that certain staff, I find and this sounds shocking, but it's true. I really have observed this firsthand. They're more afraid of their immediate supervisor and the central special education staff who are the quote unquote, sort of technical experts who will come to a meeting, whether it's placement, then they are of any possible section 504 or IDA violations, and I just find that shocking. Yeah, but I do remember one Meeting going to I was a middle school team leader, I was going to meeting as a fifth grader coming in, I was literally told to opposite things that I was not allowed to say going into that meeting as the team leader for the incoming school, that placement person from the central office, took me aside before the meeting and told me, You are not allowed to tell the parent that we don't have self contained math in that building right now, my assistant principal told me make sure you do not mislead that parent that that team is not misleading that parent, they were closing all these self contained centers for autism. And so I went with what was the truth? I did not want to mislead the parent. Yeah. And the central office staff was not happy with me at all. But I was not going to mislead the parent. Yeah. And that didn't mean that once the child got there, we couldn't formulate a program to meet that child's needs. But the parent was saying, right now, if I went and did an observation, is there a sixth grade self contained math for children with autism in that next school? Why would I mislead a parent like that? Yeah, it was fascinating to me, that the central education staff was not basically saying you are not allowed to say that. So that's another thing that I think parents forget, sometimes that that teacher that you're asking for help and asking to add an accommodation, or please do this, or when am I going to have my meeting? They may have their hands tied a little bit on some things, and they're not allowed to tell you that?

Penny Williams 16:27

Absolutely. Yeah. There's different policies and every school and then in your school board, and then you know, in your state, and yeah, it's daunting. It's daunting for parents. Yes.

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One question that's been coming up for me is, do we start with teachers? You know, I see that my child is really struggling in the classroom, I suspect that there is some sort of learning challenge, whatever that might be, or I already know, we already have a diagnosis. Do we just start with the teacher? And look for accommodations at that level? Or would you recommend that you also go ahead and start this more legal process of trying to secure these legal accommodations and services?

Liz Capone 18:25

It's really interesting, because schools have so many policies and procedures and rules for parents, for example, if your child injures another child, they're gonna bring you in the next day, and the child's gonna get suspended, they're by the book with certain things. So to me, it's like if your child has an educational disability, or under 504, an impairment and they're entitled to it, why not have the school be just as accountable for implementing these laws as they are with implementing policies to hold you accountable as a parent? So I know sometimes people are like, well, let me just see what the teacher can do. Maybe the teacher can just give him extra time. And we'll see if that works. The problem with that is, there's no documentation of protection for that child. If that teacher literally goes on maternity leave, gets a long term sub is moved within the building to another class where that teacher goes on leave, and has to go out and they need a more experienced teacher.

So your child's teacher has been giving them wonderful support extended time, maybe chunking assignments, may be giving them copies of notes, but there's no documentation that here's the reason we need that in place. And literally the next week, they're pulled to go be the instructional specialists there moved to the fifth grade classroom where that teacher was having behavioral challenges and that teacher had served whatever reason so then you do not have a paper trail. So to me You really use that data. And the data is the sort of ticket to the child being entitled to the supports and services. And as a parent, parents have so much data they don't even realize they have in front of them, I say to everybody, get a spiral notebook, get some tab, go to Dollar Store, do it digital data, document, whatever, put things down, and I say use nouns and verbs, if your child is coming home, and with work, that's not completed. That's data work not being submitted, that is completed. And we've all seen that the homeworks living in the backpack, yeah, I've told kids in the past, you're carrying your grades around with you, you have interned in your work, that's a huge issue for students with attention deficit challenges, they don't turn in their work.

So really look at your data, because parents aren't going in and asking for accommodations and supports, if there's not a challenge that their child's facing. So really look at your data first. And then take that data to the school saying, Oh, I know my child's grades have not just grades and attendance, but look at how much effort that child is putting in and also interview your child, just ask how do you think school is going? Which class is hard? Well, I don't have time to pack up, I don't have time to write my homework down, find out all that data by asking those questions, then you would go to the school and say, I have this note from the doctor, I have all this data. Now you're ready for a meeting? I don't disagree with the approach to definitely have that collaborative, relationship with the teacher, but I'm afraid if that teacher for whatever reason is not that certain person there all the time, that's a dedicated person, there's nothing in writing, ensuring that your child is going to continue to get those wonderful supports.

Penny Williams 21:48

Yeah, yeah. Especially when they go to a new teacher the next school year, it's not going to follow with them. If it's not a legal sort of accommodation if it hasn't been made official, yeah. Especially memorialized. Exactly. And I think the process takes so long, that I have always found it useful to go ahead and start working with a teacher to like, what can we go ahead and try to help them with whatever it might be, my son, when he was super young, he could not stay in his chair, he was just non stop moving. And his first grade teacher was amazing. And she, during that process of, we were working on diagnosis privately, we were also working on the evaluation with the school, she was trying different things, she was putting tape around the floor around his desk.

So if he was inside of it, and his stuff was inside of it, then he was good to go. You know, because he was really struggling, and really needed to go ahead and have at least somebody sort of acknowledge and see him, right, see that he was really having a hard time. And that it was okay. So to me that just helped sort of ease my own stuff with that timeline. Because for us here in North Carolina, it was 60 days, it was 60 school days. So it took a long time sometimes to do the evaluation, have all the meetings and get something official in place. And it was great when teachers could go ahead and help sort of in the meantime, with that process,

Liz Capone 23:23

I totally agree with you. And I think there definitely are supports we talk about Universal Design for Learning and people go what is UDL and I'm sure that term is one of your favorites, where okay, maybe all the students would be you know, they would benefit from using a graphic organizer. Why don't we put 10 graphic organizers, 10 different kinds on the bookshelf and during writing every day, if you want a graphic organizer, like for in person school, you can get up for virtual school, here are the graphic organizers in the Google classroom or whatever, right? I believe that's so important to have the teachers understand your child struggling. So it really seems to me both as an educator, viewing children who you know, observing children who have attention, challenges, hearing comments over the years from teachers, and then going through school, I undiagnosed myself, like, Okay, I'm trying so hard to sit still. I'm really trying to get my work done on time. I'm really having a hard time paying attention, but I think it's still almost like, okay, but really, couldn't you talk to your child at home? Couldn't you say something your child's parents are kind of like they've already done all this. What can we do in the classroom, maybe five minutes before the bell, we stop and we say, Okay, we're gonna give you all five minutes to write down your homework.

You know, relax from the day, get your jacket, those little things throughout the day can make such a difference. You're giving the student an extra day to submit something chunking those assignments, extended time breaks is such a big one. I really do. I think that is one of the key accommodations that many educators don't grasp the impact of a break when these educators go, yeah, I didn't want him to go the restroom, he's gonna go play. And I said, Would you rather he's not focused, or you give him a break, and he goes and gets a drink, and then comes back and gets right to work, what would you prefer? And then they go, Well, I guess I'd prefer them coming back and getting to work. And I say, see, that's such an easy thing. Give them that three to five minute break. I'll go walk them. You know, when I was co teaching, I'll go walk with Susie around the school real quick, those things really help children.

Penny Williams 25:37

Yeah, so much breaks were a big, big deal for us in our family. And teachers and educators are really worried about them taking advantage. If you allow a child to get up and take a break when they need to, are they just going to have a break all the time? And the answer is no. You know, typically, they're going to use their combinations when they need them. And they're not going to take advantage of using them when they don't. And for me, the big sort of aha, with that was when my son was a freshman. And he just felt so sort of under assault all day, every day, he was in fight or flight. And he was really having a hard time with adjusting to high school, the volume of kids the volume of noise, all of these things. And he wasn't learning, he wasn't engaged because he was just in survival mode. And so he would ask for breaks a lot. And he needed them. Because he wasn't learning anyway. Right? He wasn't engaged. And keeping him there wasn't going to help him engage. He really needed that break. So it's a really, really valuable one. I completely agree with you on that.

Liz Capone 26:50

It's almost like trying to explain to general educators or even other special educators who may not grasp sort of the severity and the impact of attention challenges, and saying, like, the mileage you get from that child when they come back from break, ready to go. And we saw this with virtual learning. We saw were children staring at a screen. It's exhausting. I know, I was still teaching that I've never been more tired than at the end of a virtual teaching day as a person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Yeah. And people don't understand that you're like, you're just sitting all day, you're just saying, I'm going. You don't I don't know, do they want a brain scan? Like, believe me, you need that break. And so I think that really cemented that that need to see the children sit and stare at the screen and go, Okay, now it's really off the charts that they need that break. So break. It sounds like such a simple fix, like, oh, breaks, whatever they take them or leave them. But like you said, there's so much mileage that child gets out of that when they have that break, and they come back and they're ready to go. They're ready to learn.

Penny Williams 27:58

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think they again, they feel understood, which is a really valuable thing for kids at school, when they feel like nobody gets it. Nobody sees how hard they're really trying. Right? My son used to come home from school and cry. You know, they keep telling me to try harder. They have no idea. I'm doing my absolute very best. I'm trying so hard. You know, we need to give kids the benefit of the doubt Oh, yes, they're not being lazy, right? More often than not, there's a totally different reason for why they might appear lazy on the surface. But there's something going on there. And we could accommodate it, we could help them, we could provide tools or supports where they can actually be successful. And sometimes it is that they're just zoning out and they just need a break, right. And sometimes it's that it's too hard. And they have no idea or it's too overwhelming, and they're not going to get started, or they struggle with getting started in the first place. There's so many different reasons for different students. But we really have to give them the benefit of the doubt and say, Okay, it looks kind of like they're lazy, but what if it's something else? What else could it be? I think that's such a valuable tool for educators. And then it really helps our kids to feel like, oh, somebody gets it. It's okay, that I'm trying really hard and I'm not quite getting there, because somebody actually finally gets how hard I'm really trying.

Liz Capone 29:20

Oh, yes. And that brings up a really great point when you say lazy because I've had my little sidebar conversations with people over the years. I can remember them vividly when I've heard them use the L word as I call it. And I say we can't measure lazy we can't see lazy is the child telling you I'm lazy today I'm refusing to do work because you do see terminology. And I tell parents, when I do parent trainings when you hear adjectives ask for nouns and verbs because if you have a child sitting there, focusing working so hard, trying to hear a teacher lecture, the child three rows behind them, is doing a small group project. There is a paraprofessional All four seats away, that child is trying to focus they're trying to do everything, they may look away for a second. So is that child lazy? Or is that child putting forth a lot of effort, despite having an educational disabilities, like let's give these children credit for showing up every day and coming to school despite knowing that they're going to sit there and just have a very difficult time compared to their peers, sustaining attention completing work, starting work, and you made a great point about work and doing work. I think synthesis on projects when a child sits there, and the teacher introduces a project, oh, my goodness, okay, we're going to read this, you're going to choose a topic, you're going to choose your method of, you're going to either do a PowerPoint, or you're going to do a storyboard or you can do you know, poster, or you can write a poem. And a lot of teachers think, Oh, this is great. The child has all these choices, and then they get to then do all this research. And, and I was like, that's an ADHD nightmare. There's so many parts of that. I said, Do you you don't see it in there, all of the sounds fun, and it has choice and the child has agency. And I'm going you don't know how many parts of that that child has gone. Okay, I can't choose a topic. I don't know where to read, like all the places where it can sort of digress for a child with ADHD. And then they're down a rabbit hole of researching a topic that they don't even like, and then they're like, What do I do, and I have to put things together. And I myself had challenges during my senior thesis as an undergrad that I was not yet diagnosed. And no one told me, you're having trouble writing, whatever, 90 Page senior thesis because you have ADHD, I just knew something was wrong. So I feel like as somebody that's been there, I have a responsibility to speak up for these children.

Penny Williams 31:57

Yeah, yeah. And they need somebody to speak up for them. And I wanted to touch too on the myth of paying attention, when we were talking about not being able to see how hard a kid is trying sometimes or thinking that a kid is lazy or unfocused. It reminded me about the ways in which we traditionally measure paying attention, eye contact, sitting still focusing on your book, if you're supposed to be reading, not writing on a piece of paper, right? All these things are very traditional ideas of signals that someone's paying attention to you. But the issue is that a lot of people pay attention in different ways. And it's a stereotype of autism, that they don't necessarily make eye contact, right. But I guarantee you, they're so listening. Like my son in kindergarten, his teacher said to me, he is running around in circle time. He's across the room, playing in the play kitchen over there, like he is everywhere else, but where we are. And he's the first one to answer every question and get the answer, right. So he's listening. Isn't that interesting, and he's paying attention in his own way, right. And we have to just be more open minded about that. My daughter is a doodler. Now. She's just graduated with an art degree, but she was a total doodler in school. And she was constantly being redirected for it. You need to quit drawing and pay attention constantly.

And I just wanted to say, that is her way of paying attention, right? That is her way of focusing on what's going on. And her grades were good, wasn't something that we even needed to be worrying about because she was doing well. But it's just this idea, this traditional idea that if you're doodling, you're not paying attention to what your teacher is saying. That's just not true for everyone. Some people can listen to music, and really focused they even write, I can't have like even a person in the house with me to write, but my husband can't go five minutes without music in his ear. He just can't take it like it's it's such a thing.

Liz Capone 34:09

It's fascinating when you said that all of them even have some of my undergrad from back in the day those notebooks and storage. And I filled my margins and I'm a big like, gel pen hoarder like I'm always taking notes and drawing and the music like I remember, on any given night as an undergrad, I would walk around to three or four locations almost like Goldilocks going in different places. And I would end up in the middle of the student center with my headphones on and I would be able to write a paper and I had been already in a library Carol I had been in my room. I had been in the main table the library had been all these different places, but it's interesting how the ability to focus it changes obviously with how much sleep somebody has or you know, if they're in one classroom, and there's a lot of other peripheral noise are trying to tune out. And then the teacher is saying,

Oh, he wasn't looking at me when I was talking. And I had to redirect. And there's this blame, I really have seen probably more so than any other disability category. And I'm sure you've seen this yourself with attention deficit challenges with a child educators to often say, Well, Mom, will you talk to him about this? Can you please talk to him about paying attention, if you would just tell him because I know if he just would pay attention, that he would get his grades would just go up. And then and they want to put that in an IEP in terms of Jimmy will focus three in and I'm thinking, oh, so we're just going to take the disability category away? Are we going to put supports in an existing environment that's so challenging for children, and let's acknowledge the challenges, let's say these supports are needed? Let's say let's all agree these children deserve the supports. And let's not argue about oh, the child could choose this or choose that that's not up for discussion. Let's look at the behavior. Let's look at the data neutral, no judgment attached and says, Okay, is it the focus? That's the challenge? Or is it that the classroom and again, not pointing fingers, but like you said, somebody's dueling, somebody's listening to music, they can still then participate, they can still demonstrate mastery?

Penny Williams 36:21

Yes, which is what it's all about learning the material and demonstrating mastery, there are a million ways to do that. The way that we do our public school system is not the only way. And sometimes we're met with a lot of resistance, that it really is the only way as you know, parents of neurodivergent kids and not just say, Hey, you just have to keep advocating, you have to keep educating the people around you. Because it's not that teachers see a child struggling and don't want to help them and don't care. It's that they don't know, they don't know what's going on. They don't know how to handle it, right. It's just that they don't have the knowledge yet. Sometimes it's the belief system that they were taught, right, the culture of the school. Yeah, they're teaching it. And so I have always tried to say, okay, they don't understand yet, they don't get what's going on here yet. I'm going to try to help with Yes, sometimes people are open to that, sometimes they're not. And you work with the best that you can do. And, again, you get help with people like you when you need it, if you because there's so many times where I see kids who are really falling through the cracks, and the parents are really trying to get accommodations and services and the schools are really close to it, or they're not being implemented. You know, we can run into so many really big hurdles in advocating for our kids in schools. And sometimes you do just have to have someone else come in and really support that process, and be able to maybe speak the language of the educators a little better, but also be that professional voice. I remember in one IEP meeting in elementary school, I was told well, it's clear that you really love your son. Like, Oh, were we questioning that? That's not why I'm telling you what he needs.

Liz Capone 38:14

Is that on the agenda. Where does that come after we get due process? If we get the paper? Like, where's that on the agenda.

Penny Williams 38:20

It was a giant invalidation and dismissal of my input, right? That's really what it was, is, well, we're the educators and so we know better, you're just as mom, you just love him so much that you want everything to be easy. And that was not the case. But you know, I was met with that attitude, on more than one occasion, and over the years. But sometimes, when you can't keep a good dialogue going, when you can't make progress with the school, you have to bring in some help for that. And I'm, I'm so glad that there are people like you who are out there to help us. In those situations, it can be so, so, so valuable. When I think the other thing that I want to make sure that we sort of mentioned before we close is that it's never going to be perfect. And this was something that took me years to kind of accept was that my child's educational journey was never going to be easy or perfect. We were going to do the best we could for him. And you know, sometimes people didn't quite do the best they could for him no matter how much I fought for that. But we have to understand that it's just never going to be perfect. And being able to be saddled with that idea is very, very empowering for parents. It's such a huge relief, to not feel like that if we can't make it perfect. We failed our kids. Right? We're by just by advocating and trying to be their voice. We're doing great things for them.

Liz Capone 39:50

Oh, I agree. And I think again, parents don't realize the amount of data they have as they go into these meetings. And they say You know, in different parts of the meeting, we all know we've all been in a lot of these meetings, and I've chaired over 500. I've been in over 800. But it's like, okay, parents, do you have any questions? Okay, do you have any input for this section? Okay, let's keep going. We have another meeting at 245, or whatever it is. It's like, oh, yes, I actually do have data, I have data on homework completion, I have data on, when my child comes home and says I didn't have enough time to finish that. And again, like you said, it's not saying we're placing blame on any one educator, we're empowering them and saying here, look at this information, look at how many minutes my child is spending on this assignment and still not finishing it, and then forgot to turn it in. Like all of that data is so empowering in terms of present levels of performance. And going in and saying, Here's how my child is performing, as opposed to my child is struggling, my child has challenges, my child has difficulties, if we can say, four out of five nights, he spent two hours on his social studies, English and math, but he finished you know, three fourths of it, that's powerful data, you can bring that to the school. And parents really are to be the respected sort of reservoir of information and data on their child. And I think we need to flip the narrative a little bit and have that conversation and acknowledge the power and the knowledge that parents do possess

Penny Williams 41:24

So much information. And we have not even barely scratched the surface, there's just so much, and it's so different for every situation and every student. But before we close, I just want to ask you to give parents One immediate action item that they can do right now, as soon as they're finished listening, or at the end of their day, to affect something that has to do with their accommodations and services with are there learning challenges for their kids at school?

Liz Capone 41:55

Sure, I really believe in the power of student interviews, I use this as a case manager strategy. And when I do parent trainings, I tried to do pro bono parent training throughout the year, and I really enjoy doing those. And so I'll tell parents one thing you may not realize you have a lot of data and something I've seen lately with certain clients is, if we ask the right questions, we're going to get better data. So you know, if your child's asleep, or you know, you wake up early on Saturday, or you have some just downtime, the next few weeks, stop and write maybe 10 questions for your child, because children are not going to volunteer a lot of this information, it just doesn't organically come up. And again, these are sort of neutral questions, but they could be things like, how often in you know, math class? Do you find yourself running out of time when you need to finish your work? Or do you have enough time every day in social studies? To copy your homework, get some of that data? You know, what is the hardest thing for you in school right now? What is the easiest thing for you in school just type up 10 questions, sort of like, which class of all your classes would you really want a break more than you're getting now just type of like 10 questions or like, ooh, these are the questions that we might ask or not in a meeting.

And then at some point, when you have five minutes in your child's eating cereal, or whatever, watching, they're watching fortnight on YouTube, whatever they're doing, so hey, I have a few questions for you about school, this is an opportunity for parents to collect some data on how their child's doing when school without literally sitting down going, I really need to talk to you about school, this is really serious. I don't think your math teacher is implementing your accommodations, and I need to find out from you what's going on. This is sort of a neutral, like, Hey, I think this would be helpful for me just to check in, it's May, school years winding down, we're gonna be getting your last report card in a month or whatever. Can you just answer a few questions, and maybe the student or your child is gonna be like, Yeah, I can answer three or four, you just put these in a Google Doc, just ask like three a day, get that data, because often, the most powerful data is from the child. But we don't stop at ask. Yeah. And that is so powerful, because they're not going to say, I really need a break in social studies class, if they don't need a break. No child wants to get up and take a break and be seen by their peers as Oh, why are you getting up again, man, you just got water or whatever they say.

So I find this as sort of the unseen data source that we forget, when we're having these meetings, and everybody's talking and all these professionals, there's a child involved. The whole purpose of this process is that this child is entitled to these services. Let's find out from that child, and we don't have to say this is for an IEP or this is for a five and forming like this is just like a school check in I want to know and I found that this very powerful tool to get information and I would say 75 per percent of the time are the questions that parents did not know the answers to these questions. So I would say that is my tip of the week.

Penny Williams 45:07

Perfect, perfect. And I will add to that, for kids who are sensitive to being questioned because I raised those, you can say, tell me about instead of formulating a question, and you can also just ask, like one at breakfast and one at dinner or something, it doesn't need to feel like an interrogation, you can pray just part of daily life just slipping in these questions. But planning them ahead of time, will make sure that you're asking them right or that you're giving those prompts. So much good information. And I want to make sure that everyone listening, knows how to connect with you. In the shownotes, we will have links to your website and everything that we've talked about here, so that they can connect and learn more from you. And those show notes are at parentingADHDandautism.com/174. For Episode 174, and again, was I thank you so much for sharing some of your professional wisdom, but also your experience as a teacher and having been in schools for so long, serving students like ours who need a little extra help and support. So it's so invaluable for parents to get that perspective as well. And to be able to advocate for their kids from using that sort of data. So I really appreciate it. And with that, I will end the episode and I will see everyone next time. Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and Mama retreats at parentingADHDandautism.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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