The IEP Team Got It Wrong

Last week, one of my staff members attended an IEP meeting as a school psychology intern. In other words, she gets to follow a school psychologist around and observe, but her job is to be a silent “fly on the wall.”

Anyway, I wanted to share her experience with you so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation, feeling as helpless as the parent did in this circumstance.

The test results were presented and it was determined that the child had an auditory processing problem.  The child did not actually qualify to get any special services at school because she scored too high on her tests, but both the teacher and the parent knew that she was really struggling.

The mom asked the team (regular and special education teachers, psychologist, and principal), if anything could be done about the auditory processing problem.  This was apparently a very supportive, caring, and knowledgeable team, but the response is what breaks my heart.

The mom was told, “No.  Your daughter will just have to find ways to get around the auditory processing problem.  It cannot be corrected.”

Now, having an auditory processing problem is like having a bad cell phone connection ALL THE TIME!  Or like listening to “sound through water” as author Karen Foley put it.  Can you imagine how anxious and irritated that would cause you to feel?  Not to mention the fact that not getting a clear accurate message can affect your comprehension, memory, attention, social skills, confidence, reading, and learning!

The GREAT NEWS is, that functions, such as auditory processing, that support efficient learning can be dramatically improved or completely and permanently corrected.  The brain is amazing, and with targeted and intensive training, new, more efficient neuro connections or pathways can be built.  Smart children and adults do not have to just cope with or find ways around their learning challenges.

The BAD NEWS is that in spite of nearly 30 years of brain and clinical research to the contrary, most people, including teachers and the professors who teach them, believe that learning disabilities, dyslexia, auditory processing problems, and struggles in school are permanent conditions that require trying harder and just “sucking it up and learning to live with it.”

My clinician, who sees the changes that can happen everyday at the learning center, but who was not allowed to say anything at the IEP meeting, was about to jump out of her skin as the psychologist she was shadowing told the parent that there was nothing that could be done for her daughter.  Translation:  No Hope!

I don’t want you to think I am anti-schools or IEP teams.  I’m not.  I was both a regular and special education teacher myself.  The job of the schools is to work at the top of the Learning Skills Continuum, teaching a huge variety of academic subject matter.  Thank goodness they do, because no one else does.

But at the same time, I want parents to know that learning problems are not a hopeless situation and most can be corrected.  Auditory processing problems can be corrected.  No, it’s not the school’s job to do that, but parents, don’t give up when you’re told your child just has to cope!  This is a widespread MYTH.

Four former students at Stowell Learning Center are typical examples of what can happen when auditory processing skills (and their related reading or comprehension problems) are corrected:

Al:  Attended Stowell Learning Center as a senior in HS – now in pre-med at Columbia University.

Mike:  Attended SLC in middle school – Now a senior at Brown University headed for medical school.

Rob:  Attended SLC in 10th grade – Now a senior in high school, getting good grades, a leader in school, applying for college, and working towards a track scholarship.

Anna:  Attended SLC in 2nd grade – Now in 4th grade, reading above grade level, doing her work independently, and hasn’t had a meltdown over homework in 2 years!

For more information about correctly learning challenges:

  • At Wit’s End A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle, Tears and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities  available at       

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