Southeast Texas Edition

Students with SPECIAL NEEDS

Advocating Successful Learning Environments

The problems a special needs child faces in school can show up in many ways: a physical disability, an emotional impairment, intellectual challenges, behavioral issues, or a combination of these. Identifying the need and discovering the proper learning environment, which could include extra time given for a test, minimizing distractions, or having appropriate tools and resources available, can be pivotal in a child’s success in school, and life.

Pat Freeze, a Special Education Advocate, works with parents and schools to ensure children receive the best possible learning environment. She offers tips to identify children with special needs, explains parent’s and children’s rights under the law, and shows how to navigate the often daunting process.

There are many misconceptions about children with special needs: they cannot or won’t learn, they disrupt classrooms, or their behavior problems can only be addressed with a firm hand. Often, a child is labeled as a “bad kid,” a “problem child,” or “not a good student,” when the root of the behavior is a special need that is being ignored or mishandled, or even an undiagnosed disability. Parents should seek help the moment they suspect their child is having difficulty. Some “red flags” to keep watch for are: Their child’s grades are failing, or they are performing below grade level; The child is frequently “written up” for behavior issues; The parent is repeatedly being called to pick up their child from school; The child has problems communicating or interacting with others.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), there are thirteen categories of disabilities that qualify a child for special education services: Autism-(ASD-Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual, Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Visual Impairment.

Other Health Impaired conditions can include, but are not limited to: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Diabetes, Epilepsy, Heart Condition, Hemophilia, Lead Poisoning, Leukemia, Nephritis, Rheumatic Fever, Sickle Cell Anemia, Tourette’s Syndrome.

Often parents do not know their child is eligible for accommodations in the school system. Under IDEA, if a child is having learning or behavior issues, the school is responsible for contacting the parents to request that the child be evaluated. Parents also have the right to ask for an evaluation to find the needed accommodations for their child.

Freeze says it is important that parents educate themselves, learn their rights, not be intimidated by the school, document all conversations with the school in writing (including dates and who said what) and always take someone with them to meetings with school officials--a spouse, a friend, or a Special Education Advocate. The process can be very intimidating, so hiring a Special Education Advocates like Pat Freeze can make the process go more smoothly, creating the best opportunities for students with special needs.

For more information visit:

Works Cited: “Understanding the 13 Categories of Special Education.” Understanding Special Education: A Parent Guide. categories-of-special-education.html.

Pat Freeze is an advocate for children in the Galveston & Brazoria counties. For an initial consultation, call 281-773- 0422, or visit See ad, page 23 in our online issue.

Maria Adolphs is a freelance writer who lives and writes from her home on Galveston Island, Texas. She is a graduate of University of Iowa’s Creative Writing Program, is published in a variety of local publications and currently working on her first novel.

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