Top Ten Most Ridiculous Comments Heard at an IEP Meeting

Meeting puzzle peices

By Dennise Goldberg

In my job as a special education advocate, and my other job as a parent of a child with special needs, I have been involved in too many Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings to count.  During these numerous IEP meetings I have met some wonderful, caring, knowledgeable, well meaning Teachers and School Personnel.

I have also, at times, heard some of the most outrageous statements!!!  These ridiculous comments fly in the face of everything the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stands for.  What you will find below are ten of most ridiculous statements that I have heard and why they are so ridiculous.

Ridiculous Statement #1

Your child’s emotional disturbance is interfering with her academic performance so she doesn’t qualify for an IEP.

Fact:  There are 13 disability categories under IDEA.  In order to qualify for an IEP you must meet the definition of one of the 13 categories and by reason thereof NEED special education and related services.  One of the 13 disability categories is emotional disturbance and if that disability is interfering with the child’s ability to access the curriculum then by definition she has a need for an IEP.

Ridiculous Statement #2

This is a Magnet School we don’t do IEP’s here.

Fact: All public schools are required, by law, to provide children with a disability a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  Since magnet schools are public schools they are required to execute IEP’s for those children that require special education.  This would also go for advanced study schools and charter schools.

Ridiculous Statement #3

We don’t perform Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) or write Behavior Support Plans (BSP) for Children exhibiting off-task behavior.  FBA’s are only for kids that are not nice.

Fact:  IDEA requires the IEP Team to consider five special factors when writing an IEP.  One of those five special factors is behavior.  It states:  (i) In the case of a child whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others, consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior.  Behavior that impedes learning comes in many forms and does not always manifest itself in violent outbursts.  Off-task behavior can and does impede learning.

Ridiculous Statement #4

Maybe your daughter’s behavior issues are being caused by you telling her she has autism and she is emulating how she thinks someone with autism should act.  I suggest not talking with her so much about her autism.

Fact: Wow, I’m still amazed at this one and I’m not sure where to start.  Let’s focus on the fact that they are blaming the parent for the child’s behavior in school.  If the School really believes the IEP isn’t working because of the parent they are required to provide training to the parent via the related service, parent training and counseling.  In my opinion, the School needs the training not the parent but let’s move on.:)

Ridiculous Statement #5

We can’t test your child for an IEP until we have first tried Response to Intervention.

Fact: This ridiculous statement was used by so many School Districts that on January 21, 2011 the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a memo reminding School Districts that Response to Intervention cannot be used to delay-deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA.   You can download the memo here: OSERS Memo on RTI Office of Special Education

Ridiculous Statement #6

Your child will be graduating at the end of the month whether you like it or not.

Fact: Graduation with a diploma is considered a change of placement under an IEP.  Any change of placement triggers extensive due process rights.  If the parents disagree with their child (who has not reached the age of majority) graduating they can stop it by filing for due process.  This would trigger a Stay Put.  Stay Put means there can be no change of placement or reduction of services while the disagreement is being worked out.

Ridiculous Statement #7

I won’t let you add your comments to the parental concerns section of the IEP form because the IEP is a School document and I disagree with your description of the events that occurred.

Fact: This question has been responded to in the United States Federal Register where it was said, “Parents are free to provide input into their child’s IEP through a written report if they so choose.”

Ridiculous Statement #8

I spoke to my supervisor at the School District and she has authorized me to offer you one hour of speech therapy a week.

Fact: IDEA specifically says that all decisions regarding an IEP need to be decided in an IEP Team meeting.  If a faceless supervisor is making the decision regarding the IEP outside of the team meeting then this is called predetermination.  That supervisor would need to join the IEP Team and discuss her recommendations with the Team before any decisions could be made.

Ridiculous Statement #9

 I agree she needs a full-time aide but I don’t have the authority to authorize that.

Fact: IDEA requires every IEP Team to have a District Representative that is knowledgeable about the District’s curriculum and resources that has the authority to bind the District.

Ridiculous Statement #10

 Your child is too smart to have an IEP.

Fact:  Intelligence has no bearing on disability or need.  Even individuals with genius level IQs can have a disability that affects their ability to access the curriculum.

Dennise Goldberg is the owner of Special Education Advisor a community of parents, educators, and special education service providers dedicated to helping families with children who have special needs understand their special education rights and receive appropriate special education services.

Dennise works with children with all forms of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, aspergers, and down syndrome, to name a few. She is also the mother of a beautiful 10-year old boy who has dealt with developmental delays, apraxia of speech, fine motor delays, sensory issues, gross motor delays, and now has a learning disability (auditory processing disorder).

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  • Jacqui

    We were told during an open house that our son is not like the other children because he “can’t learn”. Pretty disgusting coming from a school that supposedly “specializes” in autism. We were also told that he was the “worst” student that had ever gone there. He no longer goes to that “special” school. He is doing better than ever in a regular public school. They are actually taking the time to get to know him as a person instead of a disability. He has moderate autism and severe mental impairment with GI issues and somehow the new school manages to teach him more than he learned in 5 years with the “experts”, even identifying when he has exceptionally bad stomach pain, which the other school said was him being “sad”.

  • Wendy

    My all-time favorite thing I’ve heard at an IEP meeting is that my son’s proposed disability accommodation would first have to be run through the school Principal to make sure it didn’t contradict anything in the teacher’s union contract before it could be added to the IEP.

    • Stephanie DeBarber

      I think you won

  • mh

    We didn’t know what was wrong and were desperate; I was at one of our early assessment meetings sobbing.  I said “we need help, my son is violent towards me at home and I don’t know what to do.”  (My son had also exhibited violence at school, but only occasionally.  We finally got an outside assessment, he has Asperger’s, the violence at home was due to stress at school which we finally addressed with appropriate accommodations after bringing an advocate.) 

    They looked me right in my crying face, and said “Anything that happens outside the school is not something we can help you with.”

    • Mary Peck

      MH, that is absolutely horrible and insensitive.  Helping children and their families is supposed to be their job!  What do they get paid for?  So sorry that happened to you and your family.  When I cried I was told that I “needed to work on my presentation”.  When I said that I was only trying to help my son because I loved him, they looked at me like I had two heads.

      • Etriebenbach

        As a SpEd teacher I can tell you that we are told by our districts and directors that we can’t help outside of school. We are not allowed to recomend specific clinics or therapies because then the district would have to pay for them. I HATE the position this puts me in. I happen to WANT to help the families of my students. There are ways around these constrictions we are put under but it stinks to have to do end runs around the administration just to help the families and students. Now, some of the things I’ve read on here from other teachers just make me sick!

        • VTMom3

          ….and if educators (and assistants) said F the system and put the kids first, eventually the system would change….it’s excuses like this that allow the system to stay the same. It makes me ill to hear excuses like this from adults who supposedly claim to want to help children/families. Take a stand dammit!!

          • td

            “F” the system? Really? I suppose you will pay that teacher’s bills when he/she gets fired for flagrantly disregarding district policy, and I suppose you will provide a lawyer at your own expense to assist the teacher in dealing with all of the employment problems that will surely follow. Do you do that on your job? Do you say “F” the boss and the company and just do your own thing? I doubt it. People are very brave when it is someone else’s paycheck and job on the line. Parents have to understand that teachers and school personnel in general have limits with regard to what they can do. Yes people say stupid things at IEP meetings, but I have heard parents say equally ridiculous things. In my experience, (which is extensive) advocates are there to show off for parents and show that they can push school personnel around. I have never seen one yet that got a positive outcome for the student, not in the long run anyway. IDEA favors parents and students and schools have few rights. The bottom line is people don’t go into special education because it gives them a unique opportunity to be rotten to kids. Most people are doing the best they can with what little they have been given. Believe me, if you go out of your way to cooperate with most teachers they will go out of their way to help your child, even if it isn’t legally required.

  • AmyC

     I could write a novel.  My school wants to move my son to another
    school.  He’s 7 and Autistic.  He does not have behavior issues, he just
    needs extra help.  They gave me one option and I requested more and
    clearly stated I was not uprooting him this late in the school year. 
    The next meeting I’m told I don’t have a choice and we “voted”.  I of
    course disagreed.  We just had another meeting last week.  One lady in
    the meeting asked what I wanted them to do with my son the rest of this
    school year.  I said “Do your job and continue teaching him.”  She
    replied “So you want us to babysit him?”  I’ve been dealing with that
    type of nonsense all year.  I have had 2 district employees tell me to
    file a complaint regarding how unprofessional they are in these
    meetings.  She said she felt they were bullying me.  I have been trying
    to frantically find out how to handle this and handle it the right way.
    It’s stressful and parents shouldn’t have to be put in these positions. :(

    • Christine

      Wow, sounds like the dynamic needs to change fast, & I find that bringing someone in (an advocate) who will say what needs to be said, more assertively than you might be able to, helps enormously. Good cop, bad cop… so you maintain the best possible relationship with the school and advocate for your child as strongly as possible. Utter morons in your school, it seems, so it will be an uphill battle. Good luck.

    • Kristie

      That’s exactly what happened to me when my son was 7. His “special ed teacher literally got in my face and said “we are with YOUR child ALL DAY”, to which I replied, “No you are not. You have him for a few hours during school. I have him all day and on weekends.” Of course, then the school escalated it and started calling the police and EMT’s on my son to the point that he was put inpatient for a few weeks. They will make your life hell. If you can afford it, get a lawyer and a parent advocate ASAP. I couldn’t and my son is now almost 16, and they are still using their bullying tactics. Good luck…

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  • Ad

    My favourite to date in dealing with my son’s school.. last year it was “A diagnosis of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder caused by the severe abuse suffered at the hands of his father)  is not a significant enough reason to give your son an EA, and even though he has been diganosed at 3 with ASD issues (he was totally mute and made no eye contact), that isn’t a clear enough diagnosis so, no we won’t be giving him an EA and we won’t be helping with the therapy he needs because PTSD combined with ASD issues isn’t severe enough” so this year I get “Yes, it’s nice that he has his Asperger’s diagnosis but that still isn’t enough for him to qualify for an EA” (that was in February) and then yesterday “I guess we need to revisit whether or not he needs support since I (the VP) couldn’t keep up with him while he was pinging off kids in the playground (read that to mean kicking and fighting and hurting over 8 different students in the space of 5 minutes because he was being bullied by another child who kicked him in the head)…. maybe I’m missing the boat here…. but for over a year I’ve been asking for support, for over a year this has been going on… and you’ve only just clued in now that perhaps the teacher he has when she tells you “oh, but he has absolutely no issues in my class” just might be exaggerating?????? grrrr….. get a grip – I know my child and I know what he is capable of, especially when he is a whole head taller than all his classmates!!

    • Louise

      Did you ever think the teacher knows how to manage a class and what she said is true. In an unstructured recess environment, I am not at all surprised your little one “pinged” other children. But, don’t assume the teacher is exaggerating. She probably is an excellent teacher whose structure provides your child with an appropriate education. I would be working on an aide for his unstructured times.

  • SarahBeth

    OMGosh!  My state doesn’t have free pre-school so they hand out IEPs like Halloween candy to get the state funding for a child to go to pre-school.  This whole system is effed up!

  • Jocelyn Gaul

    My son has Asperger’s.  The principal once told me and i quote,”If we give him an aide, that will give him a stigma”>  My answer was really he is autistic i am not worried about stigmas…lol

  • Becagulxson

    how about this, my kid gets bullied and stands up for himself when the teachers/staff won’t, then say he needs more meds! >:O

  • Annie O.

    So many more reasons to homeschool, thank you!

  • Jenniharris48

    Hi we are in sunny Engalnd, we have a school that have said they will not support my son even though he has ASD, speech and language delay, social interaction probs , They will not statement him to get the help, and they also think they no better than the specialists or me as his mother  we have had some serious troubles  since sept 2011,  my son was found wandering in the school swimming pool (no teachers about, just a whole class of 9 yr olds), he has been dragged by his hair , head and arms in the play ground, He has attacked teachers hit and sworn at them, has also been sent to the head’s office countless times , just before easter he came home with a burn on his hand  we are battling to get him moved to a school with an autism base, but with out the statement  we wont get him in there  and as of monday 14th may 2012  Jimbo has refused point blank to go to school, we have thought about home school but we feel it wouldnt be of benefit to james  if any one has any ideas please lut us no

  • Jenniharris48

    I also meant to say that on thursday 10 may 2012  I had what they called a “review meeting” to discuss my little lad, which didnt happen I was asked why had I said the Special Ed Needs Coordiantor was crap at her job my reply  where is all this “progress “and extra help he s getting?  I have now had to tell my youngest daughter’s  Pre school that i do not want the SENco at my son’s school any where near her,  the school were meant to do an IEP in Feb 2012 but i have yet to be shown this    Jim has the speech age of a 2-3 yr old the mental age of a 4yr old and he is actually 6 the school refuse to accept this  even with letters of dianoses from 2 doctors and a specialist speech and language therapist

  • Brian Harris, M.Ed

    We strive to give our parents positive experiences.  Almost all my parents leave feeling it was the best IEP meeting they’ve ever had.  They don’t have to fight.  We talk and support them the best we can.

    I also feel negativity begets negativity.  How about, “10 Helpful & Compassionate Things Heard At An #IEP Meeting.”

    Constructive, respectful collaboration is the only way to best serve our kids.  We can’t let others’ crises (i.e. disrespectful or aggressive teachers/schools) become contagious. 

    Otherwise we forfeit our core values when we need them most.

    • Syl

      I would contribute to that article, Brian. I have had nothing but positive IEPs with my son’s team. We discuss what we all think is best and right for his growth and development. They’ve never said “No” to me, they say, “Let’s look into how we can accomplish that.” And then they follow up. Sadly, I have heard of friends/acquaintances who feel that their IEPs are contentious and go in with a “fight” attitude. I prefer a negotiating strategy to get what is best for my child without alienating him or me from our wonderful school or district staff.

      BTW – he has autism and was non-verbal when he started school at age 6. Last year, he graduated elementary and was the only student to give a graduation speech and he did it to the best of his ability. No one expected perfection; everyone saw huge progress. His teachers posted the speech on the screen behind him so that others who didn’t know him well would see what he was saying. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

    • Mom in PA

      Constructive collaboration is a rarity, and the students who attend your school are lucky indeed. These articles resonate because this anti-parent attitude is common throughout schools and especially in IEP meetings. Most parents I know (like me) come into an IEP meeting hoping for help. I left many meetings feeling relieved to have help only to discover I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Eventually, many of us find out the people we trusted lie regularly, don’t follow through, fail to follow basic procedures and disregard parent rights and education laws regularly, try to intimidate us and our children with all kinds of tactics at those meetings, and – wait for it – blame PARENTS for whatever disability the child has and for asking for help. I commend you for your attitude toward the parents in your district, and I hope the parents truly agree with you. But the reality for many is that the crises you see here are far more typical.

      • Mom in CO

        This is so true. I’m on the verge of seeking legal counsel due to the crazy level of in appropriateness and outright lies I have been told by my son’s school. Seriously, we are just now doing the IEP evaluations (finally, after I asked the school for 2 years and then did my own IEP request to the district) and I have gotten at least 3 of the above listed responses already. Every mental health provider who has seen my son (and there are a lot) has been completely shocked at his school’s attitude and reluctance. After he finally got suspended and some starkly illegal conversations with the principal (he doesn’t belong in public school, you need to pull him out and do online/home school) I put my foot down and went over their heads. I have still tried to be positive and thanking them for working as a team etc etc etc, then the principal totally ignored his RTI and withheld lunch from him because he wasn’t writing an apology note the way she wanted him to until I sent my mom to pick him up at 2:30. Because keeping food away will make an autistic child with ODD suddenly become compliant. Right. Ok. And I get lectured on parenting. Sure.

    • Nathanielle Sean Crawford

      People might feel more compelled to write an article like that from actual experience, rather than concern that they might bruise someone’s ego. Perhaps you should be looking at the article from an objective point of view and asking yourself, “Is there a way I can be a part of the solution for the greater whole and not just my corner of the world?”

      Yes, you may be the exception to the examples presented here. But you are one fish swimming in a big sea and ten sharks won’t hesitate to eat you just because the one you were lucky enough to meet happens to be a vegetarian.

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  • child advocate

    I work for an agency that attends school meetings frequently, most of which are IEP and 504 meetings. I have sent this to my staff amd coworkers. It’s amazing how much we hear these things. I once had a SPED director tell me (after I showed her in black and white what IDEA law stated) that “I don’t care what the law says. This is my school system and I will run it any way I like”. There are a precious few schools/teachers that are looking out for the childs best interest (and for those we are truly grateful). But, unfortunately, most of those i have had experiences with want the child out of their school ASAP. They will lie (literally) to make sure it happens. Thanks so much for this!

    • sped teacher

      As a teacher, I know that educators got in to the profession to help children. When advocates come into a meeting with negativity or their own agenda it creates an atmosphere that is negative and uncomfortable. Just saying, if that’s the majority of your experience, it may not be the school.

      • Mom in PA

        And you, sped teacher, overlook the reason for the “attitude” you perceive in the first place. I don’t know of any parent that hasn’t started the process with hope and expectation that the school will help. The parents end up with advocates because the schools push the parents into that, and it’s not a pretty picture when the school realizes that advocate is going to hold them to the law. (I know of one district that routinely forces Due Process hearings so they can settle before the hearing. They get to call the terms, then, and the whole thing stays out of public record.) Everything written above is true, and while educators may start out wanting to help children, they are not always permitted to do so for many reasons. In other words, they have to make choices, and those choices compromise children at times. In addition, this “want to help children” idea is lost at higher levels (admin) because of greed in some cases and the pressure put on them by politics, time, and money. So you see, there may be all kinds of tactics and nastiness started by those schools when it comes to providing those services that you’re not aware of as a sped teacher because it’s much bigger than just “helping children.”

  • mikki

    Okay, here is one “we will not help your son becasue he is not have bad behavior!” SO, what does he have to do? (by the way he is a West Point Grad. now)

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  • sigh

    Today I learned that a communication book would be too stigmatizing for my child who engages in loud, disruptive and self – injurious behaviour.

  • Discouraged Parent

    My son is 8 years old and has a 504 in place. He has been diagnosed with ADHA and Asperger’s. Signs of dyslexia and auditory processing disorder have been shown. The school is telling me he cannot be tested because his grades are to high. He is only on 2nd grade and is on a 20 point grading scale at this time. Next year is will change to a 10 point grading scale which will be very difficult for him. My question is why do children have to fail before testing can be put into place? Is there a way around this?

  • Elizabeth Benton

    Record all interactions with school employees and all meetings…they will deny deny deny.

  • DEEM

    does the school psychologist dropping the eff bomb count???
    how about ‘we don’t care that he is sitting ON people’s laps in second grade to ask a question, since his work IS NOT LOW he does not need to be tested [although his mother agreed that something was wrong].

  • Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

    Here’s one I heard recently: “504 Plans are only for children with behavioral and emotional disorders.” (FACT: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act pertains to any disability: physical, cognitive, mental,
    sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these.)

  • Elizabeth Schnitzler Ernst

    It’s obvious your son has Asperger’s (Not on DSM V), but we deny him services. I’m sure because he’s so smart, you can teach him nonverbal communication. (This was last week)

  • Jonathan Matthew

    “He might be autistic at home, but he isn’t autistic at school”

  • Sharon

    When requesting full day preschool for my son with autism, the Special Ed director said “We’re not running a babysitting service here.” That was 22 years ago, and thankfully things have changed for the better.

  • Tired of the Shit!

    This was a few years ago when I had my oldest child entering into the 9th grade at a large High School. The team was all assembled for the IEP meeting along with my husband, me and our child. We got going on the meeting and when it came to asking about graduation requirements, the Vice Principal spoke up and said, “Oh she won’t be graduating with a diploma, she will be getting a job skill so that she can do a job when she is ready to leave school.” Our family left the meeting and we spoke about what was said and to put it mildly, my daughter said that was bullshit, she wanted to get her diploma. So we found a charter school that worked with her and she graduated, a year later than planning due to her first high school, but with a diploma.

  • Michele

    My personal favorite is, “He’s too smart to have autism,” said the director or Pupil Personnel Services.

  • Larina Warnock

    When we were discussing first grade placement for my younger son who had severe quadripalegic cerebral palsy, I told them that I wanted him placed in the general education classroom instead of the “life skills” building (yes, building, not classroom) because he was physically unable to learn to do the things they taught there: dressing, personal hygeine, eating, etc. I wanted him to pick up as much social behavior and academic learning as he could in a general ed classroom. They said, “We won’t place him in a general education classroom because his feeding tube would distract the other students.” We changed STATES, not schools, because of some of the ridiculous things said in our sons’ (my older son has autism) IEP meetings.

  • Phil DuBois

    When our 5-yr-old started kindergarten and displayed behaviors right away, the principal told us, “You know, he doesn’t really HAVE to start school until he’s 7.” After a month, we enrolled him in a private school.

  • Teryl Figgins

    I love the “when will she outgrow this? it’s really not going to be very functional as an adult.” (when referring to a child with severe anxciety)

  • Dr. SLP

    A speech pathologist should be setting his or her own therapy schedule; NOT an administrator. period. The administrator does not determine number of therapy hours the SLP does.

  • Mary Schmidt

    Upon entering high school, the school didn’t want to provide speech/language services to my son with autism, hearing loss and speech impediment. “Well, usually by the time the child reaches high school, they don’t need us for speech anymore.” (Don’t worry, he received speech all through high school, lol)

  • Another concerned parent

    When my daughter was in school a few years ago she had gone from a IEP to a 504. We had her retested and were discussing this when I was told that as a parent I was too involved in her education and needed to back out of it.. While I was processing this for a reasonable answer they closed the meeting.. Since she was graduating in a few months I decided not pursue it but I was mad and they knew it. Some of the teachers that were there were coaches and the meeting was holding up the practice or game they needed to be at. It was more important. Beware parents!!

  • Womyn2me

    It would be interesting to have a list of 10 regarding the stupid things parents say in IEP meetings.

  • concerned teacher

    Any way to find out how to get Speech and Counseling provided for IEPs that have those services already mandated? There is no provider available at our school. Isn’t the DOE supposed to send contracted workers for these cases?

  • Roe

    I wish you were around 20 years ago when I needed you. One school had the audacity to insult my father and his recommendations because they believed he was properly educated to do so. They were surprised when he detailed his credentials. You could hear a pin drop in the room when he was done with them.

  • Nancy H. S.

    As an aide, I had little power in IEP’s but I did work with one student 1:1 for many year and knew her extremely well. The parents requested I attend all meetings because they knew I would follow through! It was my mantra (behind the systems back! and I could have lost me job.) to always tell parents that they were the child’s best advocate. They are the ones that will still be there after the school system is out of the picture. I’ve been fully retired for over 6 years and 2 of my former students are still in touch with me. Love them both.

  • Sarah Marshall

    VP to mom: “Ma’am, you’ll have to understand, even a grade of 60 is passing. His reading comprehension is just fine. I suggest you not helicopter so much.”

  • IEP student Survivor

    Aww, brings back great (not!) memories of my parents at IEP meetings! However, without their advocacy I wouldn’t be able to write this post.

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  • alidantgre

    My son’s school won’t help feed him because “it’s not education related.” Every day I pack a lunch and every day it comes home untouched. He just sits in the lunch room and watches the other kids eat. The IEP program has been helpful in other ways, but this one issue makes me so angry.

  • Lisa530

    I was wandering if the state pays the schools for children with IPE?

  • kayley

    I hate how you are trying to act like the kids who have IEP are straight up have mental problems or have autism & etc.., which my child has a IEP and she’s not mental AT ALL. So stop.

  • Teacher

    “Well we just aren’t going to pay for that,” was what the principal would tell me. Or sometimes it was, “the district isn’t going to pay for that!”

    Another special education teacher in the building
    came to me and was telling me that she had a student who was going on a gluten
    free diet. My replay was, “that’s going to be fun checking labels when you’re buying snack.
    But, I know they have a lot of items say on the outside of the box. And, I know
    that one store has a gluten free isle so that will make buying snacks easier.”
    Her response was, “really all that for just 1 kid,” with a puzzled look. “I’ll
    just buy one box of gluten free cereal and she can have that.” I always want to ask, “why are you here, if it’s not for the students? We don’t get paid enough to be here if you don’t like the kids!!”