When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with a plethora of learning disabilities that pertain to my working memory and pattern recognition. Due to my diagnoses, I have had an IEP, or Independent Education Plan, to assist me in getting the learning resources I need since I was in elementary school. However, in my time at Los Gatos High School, I’ve noticed a recurring theme of students without legitimate learning disabilities stating they would like an IEP simply because they are struggling in their classes. It is important to distinguish that learning disabilities and having trouble in certain classes are two very different situations.
It is important to point out that your issues with a certain class, or even all of them, are not invalid just because your struggle doesn’t have a definitive label. With that said, if a student is struggling in an Advanced Placement or an Honors course, the immediate reaction should not be the assumption that one has a processing issue, but instead that a particular course may not be the best fit for that student. Though AP classes are practically an unspoken standard at LGHS, feeling behind in those classes is not necessarily evident of a learning disability, but a sign that a class may be too challenging for a student at that particular time.
I’ve seen more than a handful of students petition to get an IEP to “make school easier for them.” The special education departments in public schools are extremely limited, and students who have severe learning disabilities need the staff available in order to overcome their challenges and move toward their future. If every student – including those who do not need it – tried to get an IEP, those who truly need the assistance will be buried. On top of that, IEPs are certainly not an excuse for students to have “an easier time in school.” IEPs are one of the only ways that neurodivergent students have opportunities to be successful. It allows us to be on a level playing field with our peers. A student with a learning disability should not have to work five times as hard as the student next to them, and an IEP can help with that. IEPs are one of the only tools some students can rely on to reach a basic level of understanding of their classes.
I can not emphasize enough the importance of looking at your academic journey through a lens of the question “Is this class the right fit for me?” rather than the belief that “I must have a learning disability.” IEPs are difficult to attain in the first place, and muddying the waters for students who genuinely need them just results in another obstacle for neurodivergent students to face. Education isn’t “one size fits all,” and we as a community need to understand that certain resources must be reserved for students in need.