Dyslexia: What to Do When …

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What should I do when the school says:

  •  Dyslexia is not covered under the law.

Assume your best Ms. Manners / Columbo demeanor while you ask the school to help you understand the definition of specific learning disability in IDEA 2004.

20 U.S.C. Section 1401(30)

(30) Specific Learning Disability.

(A) In General. The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in 1 or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.

(B) Disorders Included. Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

You will find this definition on page 55 in your Law book.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

Dyslexia is a language learning disability in reading, writing, spelling and/or math. From a legal perspective, dyslexia is a learning disability that adversely affects educational performance.

  • Dyslexia is just a general term and doesn’t really mean anything, so we don’t have to provide services to kids with dyslexia.

Do not argue with the school. You will not change their attitudes and beliefs.

Shift the discussion and focus on using the 5 Ws + H + E questions. Ask questions to flush out their positions so that you can figure out how to change their focus.

A straight up argument is not persuasive and does not change their perspective. However, their own emotional response is impacted by empathy. Market to those emotions to change their thinking and perspective.

  • Your child is just developing slower than most children, so we don’t want to provide any help with reading until third grade.

Learn about the principles of early intervention and the importance of learning how to read up to third grade. After third grade, children are reading to learn.

Try to help the school team see the damage created by waiting to fail – rather than focus on intervention now. Emphasize the importance of avoiding the damaging effects of failure.

When children cannot read, they fall further behind and do not catch up.

  • Your child is doing OK, he is not that far behind. Even though you don’t see it, we believe he is making progress.

Use the bell curve and make a power point percentile rank bar graph. (Instructions are here.)

Compare your child’s educational achievement test scores in reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling – on the same test, over time.

If your child really is making progress, that will be evident from the test data. If not, you will know that he is not making progress, and the bar graph with show this.

To determine true progress (or not) data must be objective and independent. Subjective data is not sufficient.

  1. What do you do when you have done everything all the way to mediation at Due Process and it’s been 4 plus years and you’re no further than when you started this journey just to get FAPE for your child?

    • Breanna, I suggest that you consult with an attorney who represents families in special ed disputes in your state. The attorney can advise you about your options. If an attorney does not represent you, there are two places to find one.

      Go to the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids site and click your state.
      Search Tip to find an attorney on the State Pages: If you are using Windows, press Control, letter F, then type Esq. If you are using a Mac, press Command, letter F, then type in Esq.

      The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (the professional organization for special education attorneys and advocates) has a Directory of members who may help.

      You will find two helpful articles on the Directory page: Guidelines for Choosing an Attorney and
      Guidelines for Choosing an Advocate.

      Take care and keep us posted!
      Pam Wright

    • I hear you . As this article I just read said . No help in reading till 3rd grade . I think even diffrent schools in same district might do differently . I say this because a bigger school for us was diffrent than one with 200 less kids . The reading teacher was better at the smaller .While the bigger had two and the parents where asked for money to pay her . When the district covered the cost with the smaller school . The none sense word reading is nuts . I taught my 8 yr old to read green eggs and ham .I knew about the 52 sight word list and I said look I’m going to point at words and remind you these are sight words . They are not considered reading words . After a couple months if that . She read it entirely on her own . Though the IEP said she’s not a reader . Seriously she read.

    • School districts test for one of the categories of special education. Dyslexia is not a stand alone eligibility. It falls under the Specific Learning Disability category. Schools certainly can say a child has characteristics of dyslexia or that the learning disability specifically is dyslexia.

  2. Hi, I am trying to find out if Dyslexia considered one of the disabilities that can be put on a child’s IEP as a primary, or does it still have to be classified as a Specific Learning Disability?

    • It is listed under specific learning disability in the federal definition. Most schools will probably list the “official” primary disability as specific learning disability.

  3. My child has 2 independent evaluations spaced 5 years apart that both conclude he has dyslexia. The district says that in order for him to qualify for district dyslexia services, he must be evaluated by the district and if his test score is above the district threshold for dyslexia services, then they cannot provide him with dyslexia therapy. I have already been warned that his number appears to be just above the threshold. From my perspective this does not mean he doesn’t have dyslexia. Rather it just means that he won’t qualify for district services. My fear is that if the district responds that he doesn’t make the cut, then they will treat him as if he doesn’t have it. He does have it, just maybe a bit mild. How do I get him services through the district if he’s above their threshold?

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