VB mom advocates for son with special needs to repeat 5th grade; wants other parents to know options

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The coronavirus had a lasting impact on many children. Virtual learning was a challenge for some and left some children unprepared for the next grade level.

A Virginia Beach mother felt that her son, who is in the fifth grade and has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was not ready to move to sixth grade. She learned it would be harder than she imagined to get approval for him to repeat the grade.

“I asked him if he was ready for sixth grade and he told me no,” said Jessica Rochen. “For him to communicate that to me, that was all I needed was for him to tell me that he’s not ready.”

Rochen says virtual learning was tough for her son, Porter.

“With him having autism and ADHD, he’s a child that relies on stability with scheduling and so it was really tough for him,” she said.

They both thought it was best that he repeat the fifth grade, but that proved to be a challenge. For multiple weeks, Rochen says she went back and forth with Porter’s teachers and principal about having him repeat the grade. She says she was repeatedly told no because Porter was completing his school work.

However, Rochen says he wasn’t completing it well.

“He wrote me a letter on a piece of paper and he could not formulate any type of, it wasn’t in the lines, it wasn’t, his letter is still as if he was writing from two years ago,” Rochen said.

She eventually contacted the Virginia Department of Education and spoke with an attorney, who helped her work with the school and let him repeat the grade.

Rochen wants other parents to hear her story, so they have a better sense of what to do to if they find themselves in a similar situation.

“It makes me think about any other children that might have been left behind or that have parents that don’t know the steps that are needed to advocate for their child’s needs,” she said. “There are multiple options out there, it just takes having to contact the right people, you know, and to just keep asking why and keep digging.”

The school recently reached out to Rochen and offered for Porter to repeat the fifth grade, which he is going to do. Both mother and son are happy with the outcome.

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