This week on Parents Prevailed Episode #2, I’m going to talk about a case in which I was able to have the district award the student a behavior aide, supervised by a BCBA and increase goals and service minutes for Occupational Therapy related services.

At the time of this case, the student was 5 ½ years old and attending Kindergarten in Orange County, California.  This student was found eligible for an IEP under Autism with an Above Average IQ.  Parents were seeking a behavior aide supervised by a BCBA with accurate behavior goals and measurable and specific Occupational Therapy goals with an increase in OT services.

When the parents hired me, their son was having extreme anxiety and exhibiting noncompliant behaviors as well as eloping from the classroom. The parents were very worried about what was really going on at school, but the school site staff refused to acknowledge anything was wrong and would actually lie to the parents about their son’s elopement incidents and serious behaviors in the classroom. Parents were frustrated and angry that the school staff and IEP team members were resistant to do what was needed to help their son.

The student would regularly leave his seat and his designated area in the classroom. He would also elope out of the class and run down the hall and several times he eloped onto the playground and tried to run out of the gate. Moreover, his behavior in the classroom was impeding him from learning. However, the school refused to acknowledge any of these incidents and did not document them in writing.  His parents knew that he was not behaving well in the classroom but could not get the IEP team to work with them to address his behavior problems.

This can be a common occurrence with school teams, especially if the outcome of formally addressing behavior might lead to the district having to fund a district aide or an ABA behavior aide.

When parents dropped him off in the mornings, it would take up to 15-20 minutes to deescalate his meltdown caused by high anxiety to transitioning out of the car to line up with his classmates.  Once lined up, he would run out of line to go to his class or try and run back to the car to his mother. This was a dangerous situation because it was possible for him to run into the parking lot and get hit by a car.

The first thing I did was request an FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment) and a SCIA Assessment (Specialized Academic Instructional Assistant).  A SCIA Assessment evaluates the need for an aide. An FBA is a comprehensive assessment that evaluates a student’s behavior and whether or not that behavior impedes their ability to access the curriculum and learning, as well as how they function in all areas during the school day. An FBA will call for a Behavior Intervention Plan with goals and has the potential to recommend a behavior aide, if warranted.

I also had the parents schedule an observation to give them an opportunity to see their son in the classroom as well as during unstructured times. I always recommend that parents schedule several observation times to allow them to see different times and environments during the school day. Make sure to request a time when your child is involved in a non-preferred task and unstructured times like lunch or recess. You want to see them when they are having difficulty, not during a lesson time when they are happy and successful. That way, you will know what concerns to bring back to the IEP table and what supports to ask for.

Now what the mother saw, was shocking. Her observations revealed her son’s extreme anxiety and dysregulation presented by behaviors such as elopement, overstimulation, lack of classroom engagement, and work refusal.  This behavior was displayed by running circles in the front of the class during circle time, biting his nails and rocking back and forth, laying prone on the floor, walking in circles in the back of the class with arms stretched out beside him, crawling on his hands and knees, eloping out of the classroom twice, and noncompliance to teacher’s prompts or directions. All the while, not able to access any kind of learning.

We also requested a daily behavior log that provides information regarding any incidents, behavioral outbursts, noncompliance, or elopement.  As previously stated, the school staff was covering up the problems the student was experiencing in terms of behavior. However, a daily communication log is a legal paper trail and can be used as evidence so school staff should potentially change their tune about covering up behavior problems and think twice about choosing to lie in writing.

We made sure that all parent concerns were documented in a Parent Agenda for discussion at the recorded IEP meeting and we also confirmed this was well documented in the notes for the meeting. I also have parents write a very specific “Parent Statement” to be attached to the IEP. This statement includes all concerns regarding the current situation and outlines the issues in which the school is failing to meet the needs of the child. If you’d like to learn more about a parent statement, I recommend you read this article.

We also requested an Occupational Therapy IEE, conducted by a renowned OT IEE provider in our area.

During the IEP meeting, both the SCIA Assessment and the FBA results stated that the student was eligible for a district aide as well as a behavior aide! So, it was agreed to award the student a behavior aide, supervised by a BCBA. It is important to note, a SCIA Assessment determines the need for a district aide, but an FBA determines the need for a behavior aide. A behavior aide is an aide who has gone through specific training in behavior, and many of them hold an RBT certification. An RBT is a Registered Behavior Technician, a paraprofessional in behavior analysis and should be approved by the BACB, (Behavior Analysis Certification Board.)

Furthermore, as a result of the FBA, we were able to work with the IEP team to write very behavior specific measurable goals as well as a comprehensive BIP, (Behavior Support Plan.) I requested the IEP allot time on the IEP to allow the BCBA to train the entire team on how to implement the BIP with fidelity. The district agreed.

The Occupational Therapy IEE was reviewed, and I was able to advocate successfully to have the district increase OT service minutes as well as write comprehensive, measurable, and specific OT goals in all areas of deficit according to the OT IEE findings.

The OT IEE results provided the evidence we needed to understand that much of the student’s inability to access his education was due to sensory integration deficits. When a child is dysregulated in their sensory system, it can cause noncompliant behaviors as well as anxiety and even maladaptive behaviors. It is important to understand that OT is not just for fine motor skills to help a child hold a pencil and write properly. However, many school district Occupational Therapists focus on fine motor and overlook sensory issues as well as proprioceptive, vestibular, and praxis deficits. These kinds of deficits can completely derail a child from being able to follow directions, pay attention, focus, and complete tasks. However, if a parent doesn’t request an OT IEE, it is almost impossible to argue this kind of position and have a district OT agree to increased goals and services.

Since making these tremendous improvements in the IEP, this student has progressed greatly not only in his behavior but in his ability to enjoy school. He no longer fights to get out of the car and is excited about going to school. He is able to concentrate and follow directions and take part in the classroom.  With the support of his behavior aide who provides the proper behavior intervention and sensory input under the supervision of the BCBA and Occupational Therapist, he is learning how to regulate his emotions and reactions when he becomes dysregulated or has an increase in anxiety.

These are the advocacy strategies I teach through my consultation services which assist parents to be able to have successful IEP outcomes. Without knowing the appropriate steps to take and the right assessments to request, parents are at a disadvantage when it comes to having the IEP team agree to meet the current needs of your child. This parent tried her best to advocate for over a year without success but once she hired me, I was able to advocate for the district to award her son the supports and services he needed to succeed.

As we moved through each step, I provided parent training, so she understood what to do when I no longer attended meetings with her. Because of my parent training, she now has the knowledge to sustain the IEP we won for her child, even though I am no longer speaking on her behalf at her child’s IEP meetings. However, she continues to receive parent training from me to continue to build her knowledge base and strengthen her advocacy skills.

I hope you’re enjoying the “Parent Prevails” blog series. I think it’s a fantastic way to teach advocacy strategies through real-life IEP cases in which we were successful in winning in favor of the student and parents.

Cheering you on always!


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Here’s what parents are saying about the group:

“Thank you for sharing these pearls of wisdom. It’s an incredible service for us parents!” -Christina

“I can assure you and everyone here that I have learned more on your page than I have from my school district. I appreciate you and applaud you for what you do as it is NOT easy! You give us guidance and you have a place in the heavens for your selfless work and service to our special needs children and their families. Thank you, Valerie!” -Reyna

Valerie Aprahamian is a special education advocate, IEP strategist, and speaker. She speaks on behalf of parents to protect the rights of neurodiverse children to receive the supports they need in public school.

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