“Dyslexia is Not a Learning Disability”

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My granddaughter is in 2nd grade. She cannot read.

She was diagnosed with dyslexia by a psychologist and a special educational consultant. At present she is receiving 15 minutes a day with the Special Educator.

When we requested tutoring with the Special Educator, we were advised that dyslexia is not considered a learning disability.  What we should do next?

Although the special education law specifically lists “dyslexia” as a learning disability (20 U.S.C 1401 (30)), it’s a mistake to fight with school officials about labels.

You need answers to these questions:

  • Did the school find your granddaughter eligible for special education?
  • Does she have an IEP?
  • Is there a private school for kids with dyslexia in your area?
  • Are there tutors who are specially trained to teach dyslexic children in your area?

Your course of action depends, in part, on the answers to these questions.

Bottom line: Your granddaughter must be taught how to read by a teacher or tutor who has specialized training in Multi-Sensory Structured Language Instruction. (Fact sheets about dyslexia and multisensory instruction)

Your granddaughter will not learn to read by spending 15 minutes or 15 hours with a special educator who does not have the training necessary to teach kids with dyslexia to read. (see The Best Kept Secret in Special Education and No Offense, But It’s Alarming That So Many Children Are Not Learning to Read)

You and the child’s parents need to educate yourselves about dyslexia and how kids with dyslexia learn to read. Begin by reading articles in the Doing Your Homework series by Suzanne Whitney. Sue is an expert in dyslexia and other language learning disabilities.

Contact the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) for a list of schools and trained tutors in your community.

The Scottish Rite Learning Centers provide free tutoring for children with dyslexia, and training for tutors.
Learn more at http://childrensdyslexiacenters.org/Home.aspx

Ensuring that a child with dyslexia receives the educational remediation needed to be a proficient reader isn’t easy.

Pete Wright was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and “minimal brain dysfunction” in 1954, when he was 8 years old. In the 1950’s, educators didn’t know about dyslexia or how to teach dyslexic kids to read, write and do math. (Three Generations at the U.S. Supreme Court). Sadly, with schools insisting that “dyslexia is not a learning disability,” this changed in most parts of the country.

More than 50 years ago, Pete’s parents educated themselves and made sure he received the remediation he needed to be a proficient reader. In those days, it was much harder to find information about dyslexia and appropriate remediation. If you educate yourself and are determined, your granddaughter can get the remediation she needs to be a proficient reader.

Don’t give up – the stakes are too high!

  1. My son is in the 1st percentile and 3rd percentile in writing and reading in 7th grade. He has had an ineffective IEP since 2nd grade. We filed a due process complaint. The special school district has offered to send his teacher to a 3-day course in multisensory structured reading over the summer. She will then teach him this next year in 8th grade out of a generic multisensory structured literacy workbook. I don’t believe that someone, however well-meaning, will be able to make a difference in a child who has not improved so far. (BTW He did complete up to Level 4 of Barton but because of homework we weren’t able to tutor effectively ). Is there a statute to require a tutor who is certified and has sufficient experience to be the person providing the instruction?

  2. When my son was 12 he was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. He now has a 504. He is an audio learner and is in the top class and holding his own. I pay out of my pocket $250.00 a month so he can go to the Dyslexia center. My question is shouldn’t the school district pay for that since they do not offer what my son needs?

    • Possibly, but you probably would have to go through mediation or a due process hearing to get them to agree to this.

    • Taffney, I understand. My child also had a late diagnoses of dyslexia at 12–now in college and doing very well. We spent a some our own money. I carefully chose my battles as well as collaborated with school officials. In the end, my child did very well. Yes, I was frustrated at times. I learned the game of how to navigate to obtain other much needed resources for my child to make progress, etc. Those resources propelled my child to college — I paid for technology as the school did not understand the AT needs and could not keep up with it–but we could and it was ours to purchase and keep. It should not be a game but was our choice to play the game. In the end, my child is happily off at college. Due process is not easy–if you do it be very prepared!

  3. Even though this is an older article I would have to respectfully disagree he about the “labeling” of dyslexia. Much of the reason schools do not want to use the term is because if the term dyslexia is in an IEP then they must use a multi sensory approach to reading. However if they use the term specific learning disability or language-based learning disability or some other roundabout way of saying dyslexia they tend to use the in-house programs that don’t cost them any money.
    Most schools do not have anyone trained to use and Orton gillingham-based program. They first want to try everything else before willing to commit to using what a child with dyslexia needs to learn how to read and be successful in school.

    • I agree, Dawn. Schools need something multi-sensory and Orton-Gillingham based. I would recommend the Sonday System. It is approved by the International Dyslexia Association. Schools like it because it is for small groups so more aides and paras can help more students. And the training is just one or two days.

  4. How these parents with kids with emotional and behavioral IEPS think the teacher should be more hands on is beyond me. She has 30 kids in the class what do you think this means for the other 29 kids. We all know what it means and we can see the effects in our failing public schools. If a child has dyslexia and needs a modified spelling list totally or a child needs speech therapy absolutely but to say that gen ed students just need to deal with physical threats, singing, cussing, yelling is ridiculous. Just because your kid has a hard time making friends in a special ed class does not mean you put them in with the gen students. These kids do not belong in these classes period. I’m so tired of fighting for my child to get an education because he doesn’t have an IEP and is protected.

    • All children should get an education. All children should be safe. Katie, I am a mother with kid in special ed and some not in special ed. My kids, not in special ed, have come home to complain about the yelling and disruptions in the classrooms. Teachers told me that in order to make sure my “non IEP” children receive a good education is to ensure that they are only tracked in honors courses and AP courses to stay away from the general student population Yes, I learned the secret. Yes, my one child in special ed received services for years and is now headed for college. My other ones are doing well in honors and APs and not in disruptive classes. Make sure your child is tracked in certain types of upper level (honors, AP) courses. Carefully talk to teachers and learn the game.

  5. I disagree that a successful teacher of a dyslexic child has to be specially trained. I was born in the 1940s and finally learned to read when I was 15, taught my an extremely patient woman who worked with “slow readers”. She’d never heard of dyslexia. Thank you Mrs Curry. You made my life so much better.

  6. Question: The article states that a student MUST be taught a multisensory approach by a qualified teacher. For three years, our district said that an eclectic approach provided by a reading specialist without specialized training in dyslexia or MSLE was all they were required to provide, that the Rawley floor of some benefit was sufficient, and that the benefit doesn’t need to be measurable in all areas. We had a due process hearing and the ALJ agreed with the school, deferring to the “expert” perspective of the RSP teacher over the three experts in dyslexia who testified for us. So where is the “must”?

    • Renee: Read the complete article and you’ll find Pete’s bottom line on teacher or tutor training – a ‘must have’ to teach a child with dyslexia to read.

  7. I know this inquiry came in 2010, but I am just now coming upon it. If Your granddaughter is still struggling, there is a wonderful approach to dyslexia called the Davis Methods. My son went through the program when he was in 5th grade, 14 years ago, and it was such a game changer that I became a licensed Davis Facilitator. The researched understanding of dyslexia and other learning differences such as ADD/ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and about 70 or so more, is that it is not a structural damage issue. Dyslexia is a learning style, a picture thinker/feeler, whose unique response to confusion (disorientation) and developed coping mechanisms actually create the learning disability. The dabilitating aspects of these learning differences can be corrected, and at any age.

    • Lori, I have heard great things about so many remediation methods. When you say that ..”can be corrected..” what do you mean? I am thinking the term “remediated.” I don’t understand how “corrected” applies. With my child, the dyslexia was never corrected but remediated and what a “game changer” for him through the years. For my child, it was all about remediation using several programs over the years and compensating and including with AT. How does the Davis Method “correct?” I am excited for parents to hear of different options as one method may work better for one child than the other.

  8. The statement “Your granddaughter must be taught how to read by a teacher or tutor who has specialized training in Multi-Sensory Structured Language Instruction.” is not quite accurate. I was born in 1947 & couldn’t read until I was 15. So about 1962. The tutor who got me to read, Mrs Curry, is unlikely to have ever heard of ‘multi-sensory structured language’. What she had was endless patience plus experience with bright, underperforming kids. When you demand specific qualifications you make it seem impossible for parents who live in parts of the country/world where such teachers don’t exist.


    My son attends an Oklahoma City public school. He is 7 yrs old and in 2ND grade. They recently rewrote his IEP because we changed districts. They want to have him in the Special ED class for 2 hrs a day to work on assignments he can’t finish in class. My husband and don’t feel like this is going to help address his difficulty with reading and math. So we did not sign the IEP. The principle said Oklahoma does not recognize dyslexia as a learning disability. WHY?!? The special and Reg ED teacher both said have little knowledge about dyslexia and NO training. What should we do? We know he is not going to get what he needs!

    • Good Luck. Also in Oklahoma. Fought the system for 10 years!! Went all the way to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. In the end, nothing was done and my child had to drop out of high school. Sooooo disappointing. It affected everything, my child absolutely could NOT learn algebra and what the schools did was pathetic. The school came to me and told me they absolutely could not teach my child, my child would not graduate and they did not have the training, resources or funds to do so and suggested I send my child to a special school that costs $15,000 a year (plus, had to get my child to that school every day and picked up), not feasible for a working mom!!!!!!!

  10. How is dyslexia not a learning disability? It impairs their ability to learn because they cannot correctly interpret the information that they are reading; hence being a learning disability.

  11. I am a retired teacher of 37 years in Ky. I am walking in a mine–field right now. If there is a law on the books regarding dyslexia but the school/system says that dyslexia is not recognized as a learning disability, what should I as an educator say. I have been saying “dyslexia is not recognized as a learning disability” but the fact is, it is a law. Confusing!

    • I was wondering if you could share an update about your grand daughter. I am also in KY and my daughter is 9 yrs old.

    • Dyslexic is a LD to ADA
      Some schools are so dumb
      Don’t sign if they deny the help
      Many kids who go to Se have dyslexia
      My son was in Se under OHI he has dyslexia and ADHD he was in Se all his years of school

  12. My daughter loves books more than toys now that she is Home Educated. When she was in school she could hardly read. After just one year of Home School, she is reading big books. She got a letter from Prince William about her singing stories.

    Children with memory problems must not be bullied to learn, they need time and compassion. When my daughter reads and gets stuck on a word, we write it down and she learns how to spell it. It does not matter if she forgets how to spell this word the next day, because that is part of her memory problem. The most important thing is that we are making progress!

    I would love to know what dyslexic children think of my daughters singing stories. She is a great role model for children who hate reading.

    Research Pat Dixon on You Tube about dyslexia maths. Interesting stuff!

  13. my son was diagnosed with double-deficiet dyslexia. we were told he fell into the 1% severe category. We took him to be tested by a psychologist who did an IEE. that evaluation changed our world. i educated myself and also hired an advocate to attend my IEP meetings. When we were not getting the appropriate education my son needed to learn we hired an atty. He was placed in a private school for a year. That school improved his self esteem and confidents. He also rec’d the Wilson Reading Program. We definitely closed the reading gap. Today he is in 10th grade at a catholic High School with NO IEP. He is getting A’s & B’s and is no different then his peers. In order to help your child YOU must educate yourself. I spent 6 mos going to school on Saturday’s to become an educational advocate. i travel to conferences. He is a success today!!!!

    • I would love to get info on the conferenced you have attend and your experience as an educational advocate!

    • Hello
      Do you mind sharing the school program you utilized to become an educational advocate? Thank you!

  14. Do the school districts today (2013) have an obligation to give children with dyslexia special services. Or….does the law no longer require them to assist this child.

  15. I am a 70+-year-old male that was never diagnosed with dyslexia or any other type of learning disability. In the late 40’s through the rest of my schooling I would suffer through humiliation and embracement of not being able to keep up with my school friends. It took me many years of “self teaching” to combat my dyslexia. Understanding my problem I did graduate college and was a successful businessman. It is sad that it has taken so many years to acknowledge the existence of dyslexia. Thankfully there have been studies and procedures for treatment and education.

  16. At the end of the day, we parents have to find what works best for our kids, and an IEE isnthe best way to figure it out. Not all children are dyslesic and most schools do not have resources or staffing to truly individualize instruction. Parents must understand the law, get outside help if necessary and insure that the chid is getting remediation early enough so he or she is ahead of the game and not levels behind his or her peers.

  17. Denise My son is dyslexic and he has learning disabilities. He was on an IEP and when we proved that the school was not teaching him to read and not providing FAPE they paid for an outside tutor from 9th grade to one year after he was supposed to graduate (he did a social graduation so he could still be considered a student). He saw the tutor 5 days a week for an hour a time. The program was alphabetic phonics the only thing that worked for him. He started as a non-reader and is now reading at 10th grade level. The school is obligated to pay for a free and appropriate public education and reading is appropriate. All the other students get it for free why not our children. thanks.

    • How were you able to prove the school was not teaching him or providing FAPE? I have to prove this Now for my child.

  18. I actually think it is important that a child who is dyslexic is diagnosed correctly. Dylexia is a learning disability, but not all learning disabilities are dyslexia. A dyslexic child will not learn to read in tehs ame way as non-dyslexic children, as established in thsi article. However, schools that do not differentiate their methods will offer “more of the same” instruction that never worked in the first place. Sadly, mos tparents find that they will ahe to offer teh appropriate tutoring on their own, which can greatly depend on their own financial means.

  19. Good info about a learning disorder.

    According to the DSM IV TR:

    A Reading Disorder is also dyslexia.

    A. Reading achievement, as measured by individually administered standardized tests of reading accuracy or comprehension, is substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.

    B. The disturbance in Criterion A significantly interferes with academic achievement or activities of daily living that require reading skills.

    C. If a sensory deficit is present, the reading difficulties are in excess of those usually associated with it.

    Hope this helps

  20. A friend of mine had a daughter who was diagnosed as Dyslexic in elementary school, who is now on the honour roll in high school. Her mom did the research and found her tutoring that was specifically tailored to Dyslexia, and it worked. All it takes is effort and persistence, and it can be overcome.

  21. Linda: The local community colleges are usually very receptive to adults with learning disabilities. Contact the counseling center, they will test him for free and give him the accommodations he needs to succeed. Good luck to all of you.

  22. I am reaching out to this community. Today I had to withdraw my son from a local technical school. I was told “what takes him 3 weeks to learn only takes the other students 1 week.” He is heartbroken. He was in the WELDING class,that is his passion to learn. Apparently he also was having great difficulties staying on task when left alone.
    My son left high school 2 years ago because he was placed in a self-contained classroom for many years of his education, based on a psychological examination. What was diagnosed was CAPD (Central Audio Processing Disorder). He has since taking the GED exam and has passed 3 of the 5 areas. He needs to retake the Social Studies and Reading.
    Does anyone have knowledge on where I should go with this matter. Every direction he tries to take to better himself leads him into a bigger brick wall.

  23. You would be hard pressed to get a specific instructional program, such as Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, noted in the IEP, as it creates a problem if that student moves to a district without that resource. IEPs are based on the student’s needs, not specific programs.

    Private tutoring would not be the financial responsibility of the school as it is private. If the tutoring was provided to a home schooled student to meet an IEP then the school district would be responsible due to their obligations to provide FAPE for children in their area.

  24. So, is it possible to get this written into a child’s IEP, to have a tutor in the Orton-Gillingham based program?

  25. My son is dyslexic. He went through the testing process and was easily found to have a learning disability. What I did wrong was to let him fail to prove that the school was not not teaching him to read.

    When he was in 9th grade and reading on the 1st grade level, the school reluctantly hired an outside tutor 5 days per week. He finished the reading program last year. He was 20 and went from a non-reader to reading at the 10th grade level. The program used was Wilson Reading and Alphabetic Phonics. With this program and a trained tutor, he learned to read.

    If the school had taught him to read in 2nd and 3rd grade, my son would not feel so negative. He feels like he missed out on a regular childhood because he always needed help and was in the school resource room where no one taught him to read.

  26. The Freemasons, as a charitable outreach, provide free services to teach dyslexic kids to read. They use Orton-Gillingham. If we hadn’t gotten their assistance, our daughter wouldn’t have learned to read as the school she attended used ineffective techniques.

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