IEP Individualized Education Plan eligibility denied due to good grades

Did Your Child Get Refused an IEP Because of Grades?


As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. You see their struggles and challenges, even when those around them might not. I hear the frustration and disbelief many parents feel when they are told that their child won’t qualify for an IEP Individualized Education Plan because their grades are “too good.”  As advocates, we get calls about this issue all the time.  Let’s dive in and see how we can handle this to get the needed support for your child. 

It is disheartening to hear that academic success is used against a child in determining eligibility for support services. Despite impeccable grades, we know the struggles children face outside of academics are REAL.  Challenges with executive functioning, social skills, and emotional regulation have a profound impact at school.  These deficits can greatly affect emotional well-being and learning experiences.  These areas of functional performance and abilities must be considered when discussing IEP eligibility. 

Understanding the IEP (Individualized Education Plan): A Roadmap for Success 

The IEP, mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is designed to address the unique needs of each child with a disability. While academic performance is one aspect considered, it’s essential to remember that educational performance encompasses more than just grades. Defined under IDEA, educational performance includes functional skills, social-emotional well-being, and behavioral challenges.  These areas can significantly impact a child’s ability to succeed in school.  Don’t let a school tell you it is ALL about grades!

Examples of Non-Academic Areas of Need:

Executive Functioning:

Executive functioning plays a crucial role in a child’s ability to succeed academically. Here are some examples of how difficulties in executive functioning can impact learning at school and academic performance:

  1. Organizational Skills: Children with executive functioning challenges may struggle with organizing their thoughts, materials, and assignments. This can lead to missed deadlines, forgotten homework, and difficulty keeping track of responsibilities.  Thus, ultimately impacting their academic performance.
  2. Time Management: Difficulties in time management can result in challenges with prioritizing tasks, estimating how long assignments will take, and meeting deadlines. Students may struggle to allocate their time effectively.  This can lead to incomplete assignments or rushed work that does not reflect their true abilities.
  3. Planning and Prioritization: Executive functioning deficits can make it challenging for students to plan out long-term projects or break tasks down into manageable steps. This can lead to procrastination.  Students get overwhelmed, and have difficulty completing assignments on time, affecting their academic progress.
  4. Problem-Solving Skills: Students with executive functioning difficulties may struggle to think flexibly and adaptively when faced with academic challenges. It may be hard to identify solutions to problems, think through consequences, or adjust their approach when initial strategies are unsuccessful.
  5. Attention and Focus: Executive functioning deficits can also impact a child’s ability to sustain attention and focus on tasks.  It is especially true when tasks are complex or require sustained effort. This can result in distractibility, difficulty staying on task, and challenges with absorbing and retaining new information presented in the classroom.
  6. Self-Regulation and Impulse Control: Executive functioning difficulties can affect a child’s ability to regulate their emotions and impulses.  It is even ore apparent in high-stress academic situations. This can lead to outbursts, frustration, or avoidance behaviors that interfere with learning and classroom participation.
  7. Initiation and Motivation: Children with executive functioning challenges may struggle to initiate tasks independently or maintain motivation with difficult or tedious assignments. This can result in procrastination, avoidance, or incomplete work that does not reflect their true abilities.

Overall, difficulties in executive functioning can significantly impact a child’s ability to succeed academically.  It affects their organization, time management, planning, problem-solving, attention, self-regulation, and motivation. Recognizing and addressing these challenges through appropriate support and accommodations is essential for helping students reach their full potential in school.


Anxiety can significantly impact a student’s ability to learn and perform academically. Here are some examples of how anxiety can manifest and affect learning at school:

  1. Difficulty Concentrating: Students experiencing anxiety may find it challenging to concentrate and focus in the classroom. Their minds may be preoccupied with worries or fears.  This makes it difficult to pay attention to the teacher’s instructions or the material being presented.
  2. Impaired Memory: Anxiety can impair working memory, making it difficult for students to retain and recall information. They may have trouble remembering instructions, concepts, or facts.  This leads to difficulties completing assignments or performing well on tests.
  3. Perfectionism: Students with anxiety may set unrealistically high standards for themselves and become overly focused on avoiding mistakes or failure. This perfectionistic mindset can lead to procrastination, avoidance of challenging tasks, or excessive time spent revising work.  This can have a profound impact on academic performance.  
  4. Test Anxiety: Test anxiety is a common manifestation of anxiety in academic settings. Students may experience physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, or nausea before or during exams. This anxiety impairs their ability to think clearly, recall information, or perform to their full potential on tests.
  5. Social Anxiety: Social anxiety makes it challenging for students to participate in class discussions, ask questions, or work collaboratively with peers. Fear of embarrassment or negative evaluation leads to avoidance of social interactions in the classroom, limiting opportunities for learning and engagement.
  6. Perseveration on Worries: Students with anxiety often engage in perseverative thinking, constantly worrying about future events, past mistakes, or potential negative outcomes. This rumination detracts from their ability to focus on academic tasks and leads to feelings of overwhelm or helplessness.
  7. Avoidance Behaviors: In an attempt to cope with their anxiety, students could engage in avoidance behaviors, such as skipping class, avoiding challenging assignments, or procrastinating on tasks. While these behaviors provide temporary relief from anxiety, they ultimately interfere with learning and academic progress.
  8. Impact on Attendance: Severe anxiety often leads to school avoidance or chronic absenteeism. Students struggle to attend school regularly due to fear of academic failure, social interactions, or other anxiety-provoking situations. This irregular attendance can disrupt their learning and academic achievement over time.

Overall, anxiety has a pervasive and detrimental impact on a student’s ability to learn and perform academically. Recognizing the signs of anxiety and providing appropriate support and interventions are essential for helping students manage their anxiety and succeed in school.

Behavioral Challenges:

Behavioral challenges can significantly impact a student’s ability to learn and succeed in school. Here’s an example of how behavioral challenges can manifest and affect learning:

Imagine a student named Alex who struggles with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Alex often finds it difficult to sit still, stay focused, and follow classroom rules. During lessons, he may fidget, tap his pencil, or daydream, making it hard for him to pay attention to the teacher’s instructions or the material being presented.

When asked to complete independent work, Alex’s impulsivity and distractibility can lead to difficulties staying on task. He may frequently interrupt classmates, blurting out answers or comments without raising his hand, disrupting the learning environment for himself and others.

In addition to attention and impulsivity issues, Alex also struggles with emotional regulation. When he becomes frustrated or overwhelmed, he may exhibit behaviors such as outbursts, tantrums, or defiance. These emotional reactions can disrupt classroom routines, derail lessons, and create a negative learning environment for everyone.

As a result of his behavioral challenges, Alex’s academic performance may suffer. He may struggle to complete assignments, stay organized, or follow through on tasks. Despite his potential and intelligence, his behavioral difficulties interfere with his ability to fully engage in learning and demonstrate his knowledge and abilities.

Without appropriate support and interventions, Alex’s behavioral challenges may escalate, leading to disciplinary actions, decreased self-esteem, and academic disengagement. However, with targeted strategies, such as behavioral interventions, accommodations, and social-emotional support, Alex can learn to manage his behaviors more effectively and access the support he needs to succeed academically.

Navigating the Challenges: Advocating for Your Child 

When faced with the misconception that good grades equate to no need for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), it’s crucial to advocate for your child’s comprehensive needs. Share your observations and experiences with school personnel.  Emphasize the non-academic challenges your child faces.  Explain the impacts on their educational experience. Remember, meaningful parental participation is a cornerstone of the IEP process.  Parents have the right to actively participate in all aspects of the IEP process.  This includes developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s plan (IDEA CFR §300.322).  Parents are considered members of the IEP team. 

Seeking Appropriate Supports: Overcoming Obstacles 

If you encounter resistance from the school in obtaining an IEP due to your child’s academic success, don’t lose hope. Provide documentation, such as assessments, evaluations, and anecdotal evidence.  Try to illustrate your child’s comprehensive needs and the necessity of support services. Include a well written parental concerns document (download our FREE GUIDE here) and include feedback from your child on their experience and challenges at school.  Also ask about their emotional wellbeing, anxiety levels and triggers for frustration.

Reviewing and Revising: Ensuring Ongoing Success 

Even if your child’s grades are good, it’s essential to remember that their needs may evolve over time. Regular reviews and revisions of the IEP are crucial to ensure it remains relevant and effective in addressing your child’s comprehensive needs. Stay actively involved in the process, advocating for adjustments and accommodations as necessary to support your child’s continued growth and success.

IEP Individualized Education Plan Empowerment, Support and Resources

Navigating the complexities of advocating for your child can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Seek out support from other parents, advocacy organizations, and professionals who can provide guidance and resources to help you navigate this journey. Together, we can work to ensure that every child receives the individualized support they need to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

Wrapping Up:

In conclusion, being denied an IEP individualized education plan because your child’s grades are “too good” is a frustrating and disheartening experience. But don’t let it deter you from advocating for your child’s needs. Remember that educational performance encompasses more than just grades, and every child deserves the opportunity to receive the support they need to succeed. Stay informed, stay involved, and never underestimate the power of your voice as a parent. Your child’s success is worth fighting for, and together, we can ensure they receive the support and resources they need to thrive.

If you need help navigating this situation or other IEP/504 related challenges, we are here to help!  Contact us TODAY by email or call 248-372-9770 to speak with an experience advocate!  We got your back!

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