IEP Challenges: Smart with Behavior Issues


I have a child with an IQ of 120 and an extremely fast and accurate processing speed when it comes to learning new material. While continuing to excel academically, he has behavioral challenges that have resulted in suspensions. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. We have a 504 and are working on an IEP. What do you recommend we include in the IEP? Also, I think my son would fall into the category of twice exceptional.”  How does one go about pursuing that classification?

 A., Norwalk, CT

Ask the Experts

Miriam Cherkes Julkowski Swenson, Ph.D

Dr. Swenson is an educational advisor specializing in reading issues and social and behavioral concerns. Her work includes educational evaluations, as well as research and writing. Further information can be found at:

Without more specific information, it is not clear what should be included in an IEP for your son. The first step, therefore, is to call for a team meeting to reach agreement on the information that is needed to provide the basis for an effective IEP.

It is difficult to tell whether, in his speed and apparent impatience, he is truly grounding himself in the skills he will need to have by late middle school. This would be the first thing to determine through a comprehensive educational evaluation.

It sounds as if he is doing enough work to get more than adequate grades. Possibly he is getting the work done quickly and then is bored while he waits for the next assignment. To determine the true triggers of disruptive behavior, it would be important to have a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).

Twice Exceptional Designation

To diagnose twice exceptionality you would need a measure of intelligence (these vary from the standard IQ tests to something such as a Naglieri nonverbal test). There could be further evaluations needed as suggested above (educational evaluation and FBA). Technically, since you already have the diagnoses of ADHD and ODD you would simply need intelligence testing that indicates the needed cut off point for giftedness.

The cut-off for gifted classification varies starting with 125 and up. His current full-scale score of 120 is not likely to qualify him as gifted. But if there is significant variability among the subtest scores in his intelligence testing, it is possible that the full-scale score is not reliable, and that there are more indicative scores that meet the standard for gifted. A careful examination of all scores given on the test would be needed.

In summary, the steps needed to move forward in both areas (IEP development and gifted designation) are:

  • Call for an IEP meeting
  • Request and get approval for an educational evaluation and an FBA
  • Have the prior IQ test results examined to determine if the full scale score is reliable

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