A few months ago, I was reading a Facebook post by a mom of a teen with an IEP whose school had contacted her about his misbehavior. It was a minor incident. He’d blurted out something rude. And one of the comments on the post really struck me. It was from a teacher who wondered—would the school have said anything to this mom if the teen didn’t have an IEP?
I can completely relate to that concern.
My son has an IEP and is going into first grade, and sometimes I feel like he’s being held to a higher standard of behavior than other kids his age.
He’s 6 years old, and he has significant social skills issues.
He often has trouble with focus and with picking up social cues from others. He’ll interrupt conversations and get in other kids’ personal space. He doesn’t recognize that when teachers and I use a certain tone when we say “enough is enough,” we mean business. He often gets really silly and overexcited, so it’s not unusual to see him dancing down the aisle at the grocery store or showing off at his grandparents’ house.
Unlike some kids who struggle with social skills, though, he doesn’t have any problem getting along with other kids. He gets along with them well. A little too well sometimes, I suppose. He’s chatty and friendly and, his teachers tell me, he uses a lot of silly “potty” humor.
Along with his IEP, he has a behavior intervention plan to help him manage all this. The plan is really detailed and focuses on teaching him what’s the appropriate and expected behavior in different situations.
But he’s still just 6. He’s only a little boy, and little boys get overexcited and act silly sometimes.
So I’m not sure what to think when his school sends me notes like:
“Sam has been making fart noises with his mouth and using words like ‘butt.’”
“Sam had to leave the group for a little bit because he was rolling on the floor at calendar time.”
“Sam needed a break because he had a hard time settling down to work after recess.”
At his last IEP meeting right before the end of the school year, I pointed out that some of these things are just things kids do. The team agreed, but said Sam needed extra help to learn not to do them and what to do instead.
But after the meeting, I had bigger questions. Are the other kids also being taught expected behaviors? Do other kids always get corrected and their parents notified?
Over the summer, when school was out, I started talking to other parents. Through them I learned, yes, the other kids are being taught expected behaviors through the PBIS program the school uses. I confirmed this later with the school.
However, I also found out—from talking to other parents—that classmates his age aren’t being constantly corrected. Their parents don’t have notes coming home every day. When other kids make a few fart noises or roll around on the floor once in a while, it’s not treated like a major incident.
This didn’t seem right to me. The whole point of an IEP is to make sure Sam has the instruction he needs to access his education the same way as other kids his age.
It’s not to make sure he’s ahead of them. It’s not to make sure he’s better at things than they are. It’s to make sure he’s on par with them.
Part of the challenge is that my son’s IEP and his behavior intervention plan measure and keep track of his behavior. That’s generally a good thing because it helps the IEP team figure out how he’s doing with learning social cues. But it also adds an extra level of scrutiny to everything he does.
I think that’s where there’s a breakdown. Sam needs some flexibility, so the IEP doesn’t turn everything into something he gets corrected for all the time. He needs a break like any other kid. He needs a chance to roll on the floor and make gross sounds with other little kids.
Fortunately, we have a good IEP team that I can talk with. When Sam starts first grade, I’m going to ask that the team look at his behavior intervention plan in the first few weeks of school.
It may be that the other kids are in a different place developmentally than he is in the fall. If so, I’m OK with holding him to this behavior standard. If not, well, I’m going to do what I can to make sure he’s not held to a higher standard than other kids this year.
Because he’s 6. And 6-year-olds deserve to be silly and gross.
Use these conversation starters to talk with your child’s teacher about how to handle inappropriate behavior in public. And learn more about how you can play a part in the IEP process.
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ToughTopics blog posts are personal stories that parents and other individuals have asked to write anonymously.