Enough is Enough

Joseph Williams faces many challenges beyond those of the average sophomore. He has been diagnosed with ADD and anxiety problems, has difficulty juggling his classes and assignments, and feels at odds with his classmates. Meet Joseph, and test your knowledge of the legal requirements and instructional options open to educators who address the needs of students like him.

Meet Joseph

Joseph Williams may be slipping through the cracks. His academic, emotional, and health issues present real challenges to his teachers, to his family, and to him.

Tenth-grader Joseph Williams has a problem. In fact, he has several.

Joseph was hoping high school would give him a fresh start, that he would blend-in and start over. No such luck. The gangly fifteen year-old was constantly losing things, turning in assignments late, and feeling overwhelmed. He was trying to get a date to the fall dance without going through the harrowing ritual of rejection, and struggling to save face in an academically competitive school. Joseph’s father was a successful pharmaceutical salesman and returned home often enough to pat his son on the back, ask about school, and reconnect on weekends. His little sister Aggie was two years younger than Joseph, but light-years ahead in her abilities to read and write. She made straight As without even trying and—this was the worst part—offered regularly to help Joseph with his homework.

If that wasn’t all bad enough, just before Joseph started his sophomore year at Country Farms High, his mother announced that she’d gotten a job there. “What?!” Joseph nearly spit his cornflakes onto the table when he heard the news.

“I said I got a job as a teaching assistant over at the high school. You kids are old enough. You don’t really need me at home, and with your father gone so much I thought I should do something useful with my time. Besides, this way I can keep an eye on you and your studies.”

Joseph’s mom had a way of zeroing in on the heart of an issue without even knowing it. Soon she would be popping into his classes unannounced to check on him, waving at him in the hallway, chatting with his teachers about his homework, and orchestrating a meeting about his “special” needs. Joseph didn’t want to have any special needs. He didn’t want to be special at all. He just wanted to fit in.

But, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t be like the other kids.

When Joseph was in fifth-grade, he had to go see a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. He had to start taking pills every day, which he didn’t like to do. First of all, they made him feel sort of spacey. What was even worse was that he had to take them in the middle of the school day. This meant a trip to the nurse before lunch—and in front of everyone. Joseph hated that everyone knew about his pills. No one paid it much attention, but in Joseph’s mind he and the two other Ritalin kids were freaks who couldn’t think straight.

Tests were especially hard on Joseph. Hunkering-down over his paper, his knuckles white from his pencil grip, he’d feel his chest grow tighter and tighter, until he felt like he couldn’t breath. His parents called this anxiety. He called it a drag.

In middle school, his mom stepped in and got his teachers to give him some extra help. They made a plan for Joseph that said he could have more time on tests, special flash cards, a seat at the front of the class, and a special notebook for keeping track of assignments. This may have helped his studies, but it also made Joseph feel even more like an oddball. The trouble-maker kids gave him grief for having extra time on tests, and the brains complained that all his privileges weren’t fair.

By the time the first report card rolled around in tenth grade, Joseph’s mother had again grown tired of hounding him about homework and checking in on him during the school day. She’d spoken to him, his teachers, the principal, and the school counselor until her throat was hoarse. After two months working at the high school, she decided enough was enough. It was time to get Joseph some more help. The 504 plan from middle school wasn’t cutting it. It was time to push for an IEP.

See one of Joseph’s science assignments below:

Click here to see Joseph’s child study referral.

Click here to see the psychological report presented at Joseph’s eligibility meeting.